Winston Moore: From pheasants and farmland to a Boise business mecca
Boise commercial real estate pioneer Winston Moore says he learned the commercial real estate business by the seat of his pants and says it seemed that the harder he worked the luckier he got.
When Moore got into the commercial real estate in 1977, the western edge of Boise was Cole Road. To the west lay acres and acres of beet and onion farmland dotted with pheasants. Today, Idaho’s Boise Valley is a top-ranked business mecca, much of which has been developed by Moore in a simple fashion. He buys the land, improves the property, then builds and leases the buildings with an option to purchase. The improvements, depending on need, include such things as sewer and water service, electricity and fiber optics. Moore develops all associated infrastructure, including access and service roads.
The octogenarian’s business acumen was first realized in the late 1950s with the purchase of a small sporting goods operation and a group of turn-of-the-century warehouses built along South 8th Street south of the city center. Moore and his wife Diane moved to Boise and used their savings to purchase Inland Sports Center, a small sporting goods store downtown. The couple ran that business for several years, eventually purchasing warehouses to meet the demands of a growing business.
As the sporting goods company expanded to nearly 200 employees, it began to attract investors seeking a national distribution outlet. Although Moore never put it on the market, unsolicited and persistent offers were made for the business.
When he finally did sell the company in the mid-‘70s, it was known as Kamloops Distributing Co., and the new owner kept Moore on board to manage the operation. During that time, Moore also developed the 8th Street Marketplace, which would be instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Boise during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
“The 8th Street Marketplace was probably the riskiest commercial real estate development ever done in the history of man,” Moore says. “But we were fortunate that when we sold it for $9.8 million in1981, it was a 200,000 sq ft of fully leased commercial office and retail development. The Marketplace was a pretty risky venture at that time, but I didn’t have enough experience to know how risky it was. It sure turned out well,” he says.
Comprised of office, retail, restaurant and entertainment facilities, 8th Street Marketplace transformed what was once a dilapidated warehouse district into a bustling retail center.
After the sale, Moore had a lot of money to invest, but he was uncertain about what to do next. A friend and local broker asked him what he was going to do with it. Local broker Larry Leisure told Moore about a proposed west-end mall.
“So I bought 10 acres on the far side of Cole Road, then we bought some more and a little more. We put in a street called Steelhead Way, and we started putting buildings in there. As fast as we could build them, they were leased and we just kept doing that,” Moore says.
During that time, conflicting reports said that the mall might not be built on the west side but rather closer to downtown on Main Street. With the location of the mall less than certain, Moore invested in land along the Boise River four blocks from Main Street. The property housed a maintenance depot formerly owned and operated by the U.S. Forest Service. He developed the parcel into Forest River, one of the city’s premier office parks. “We built Forest River and as fast as we could build the buildings, they’d fill up,” Moore says.
Moore’s other projects from 1979 through 1996 included the construction of multi-story and more complex buildings for well-known companies such as Hewlett Packard and Albertsons. His 200,000-sq-ft Hewlett-Packard effort was a build-to-suit project comprised of a four-building campus with a data center, customer-support call center, office and cafeteria.
As his experience grew, Moore began building single-story, multi-tenant office parks. He learned that people in the retail industry wanted to be able to drive up to their business and park in front of their shop or office space, and their customers wanted the same easy access.