While dozens of glass and concrete office buildings through the valley languished half empty in the mid-80s, an intrepid trio of brothers decided to give up their respective careers and - with no experience - create a development company to build retail and office buildings.
The spark was struck in early 1984 when Greg Winget moved back to Utah. He and two brothers, Brent and John Winget, got to talking about unfulfilled dreams. All three were dissatisfied with their careers so, on Independence Day 1984, they forged a development partnership. The business has since taken off like the proverbial house on fire.Greg quit being a stockbroker, John left a 13-year teaching career and Brent gave up his collection business.
Their timing and inexperience should have guaranteed their failure. Instead, that very naivete and a contagious expectancy of success created two of Murray's most noted business developments: the Riverview Plaza on 5300 South and 700 West and the unusual Independence Square, a 15-acre business park at 5600 South just east of State Street.
Now, when most office buildings are just starting to pull out of a rental slump and their developers are still eager for renters, the two completed buildings in the park are 100 percent full and 80 percent of the office space in the third building - which won't be completed until August - is already rented out.
"We've been turning people away for the past two months because we don't have the space," said Brent.
The secret to their park's success? The unusual buildings. The three brothers concluded that the ardor most Americans felt for the colonial period in U.S. history could make a theme business park a success.
"We didn't want to build just another cubed glass building with a little ribbon of brick," Brent said. "We had to build something that generated excitement."
They settled on a theme development similar to the Jamestown Development in Provo. In fact, they used the same architect: Ken Harris.
The first building, finished in January 1989, was a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the constitution was hammered out and signed. The first glimpse of the colonial building, peeping out of Murray's cluster of car dealerships, is startling. The building features a replica of the tall clock tower on the real Independence Hall. The offices capture the romance of the era, with slanting ceilings and paned windows on wooden frames that slide open from the bottom like windows did 200 years ago.
The brothers' hunch paid off. The first building filled up immediately. "The atmosphere, the sense of patriotism, make it fun to be here," said tenant Paul Fitzgerald, who has an office in Independence Hall.
So they launched the second: a replica of Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello. This replica was less exact than the first. "The real Jefferson home had a round dome on it," Brent said. "But that wasn't cost-effective to build." However, the second-story offices all have balconies like the real Monticello. "A place to go out and sip the cider," Brent said. The brothers have dubbed their replica "The Jefferson."
Businesses like to rent offices in the buildings because their patrons like the atmosphere. "Being here helps our image," said accountant Bob Burdette. "We get a whole lot of compliments from our clients. You can have an office here in a classy place or an office somewhere else in a square, glass box."
The buildings cost an additional $3 to $5 per square foot to build over the glass and concrete structures the brothers disdain. The building's decor and park landscape reflect the colonial era. Prints of colonial-era paintings and documents hang on the walls and replicas of colonial details are seen everywhere. A 13-star colonial flag flutters from the flagpole and a real stock and cannon are mounted in the courtyard below. The clock in the tower tolls on the hour, the cannon is fired every Friday and friends are occasionally playfully locked in the stocks.
The three brothers have even purchased colonial costumes which they don every time a finished building is dedicated.
The third building, still under construction, is a 29,000 square-foot replica of the White House, to be named "The Washington." The Washington will be filled with offices businessmen can rent with pride. "We're going to make a whole bunch of oval offices in the White House so everyone feels like they got the Oval Office. Whatever sells!"
Three other buildings are planned for the project: The Hamilton, The Hancock and The Jefferson. "The spirit still lives on, even though the days of yore are gone," John said.