Alex Winsor knew at an early age what he wanted to do for a living. As a child, the Colorado Springs native followed his father, John Winsor, a commercial real estate broker, as he conducted business with clients and colleagues.
Today, Winsor is an agent in Olive Real Estate’s Retail Group, where he works with his dad and where the brokers he knew as a child are now his colleagues.
Winsor spoke with the Business Journal this week about what’s hot in restaurant and retail real estate, as well as what it’s like to witness explosive growth in his home state.
Are you from here?
I’m a native. I grew up here, graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School and went to UCCS, where I studied sociology and business. I graduated in 2012, and I started at Olive three and a half years ago.
How did you end up here?
My dad is part of the Retail Group, which he founded as a division of Olive Real Estate. He, Kevin Kratt, Tom Cone and Stan Kensinger were some of the guys I’d grown up around since I was about 7 or 8.
I learned the business through them and got a perspective of what goes on in commercial real estate.
I remember being with my dad — it was when I was in junior high — going into a vacant restaurant and thinking how special it would be to see something like that transformed with a tenant in the space. That’s what piqued my interest.
Was there any doubt you’d stay in Colorado Springs?
Originally I thought I might leave if I could find a job. I knew [real estate] was something I wanted to do, but I wanted to make sure I had some experience and techniques I could use in this industry.
I stayed local, luckily. I was looking at Denver but was hired at All Copy Products right out of college. That was pure sales — commission only. I sold services associated with copiers and printers — managed print services, refilling of ink, toners, selling printers. Then I was hired as a property manager at Holland Residential. I did that for a little while before I was hired at Olive.
What did you think of sales?
I liked it. It’s a difficult industry because you’d go into a place and a copier was just a thing. It was hard convincing people how much they could save if they had a subscription plan to a toner or cartridge service. It got me over the hump though. It was tough sales, so I figured if I could do that, I could do a lot of other things.
What are your responsibilities here?
My focus mainly is retail/restaurant. We’re our own bosses, independent contractors technically. It’s on us to create that business for ourselves. The entrepreneurial spirit here is great. I cold-call and do client development and retention. I do more landlord representation lately. I represent landlords to find tenants to fill space. The market has balanced out though where we’re doing more tenant representation too.
What areas do you focus on?
I have things from South Academy [Boulevard] north to Interquest [Parkway]. The Springs is where I generally focus, but have done deals south in Fountain.
Which locations are hot right now?
North. You can see on Powers [Boulevard], when you get to Dublin [Boulevard] and north, it’s exploding. There are multiple developments in the works — retail centers with national anchors. Some of those we’re involved with.
Interquest and Briargate Parkway have a lot of those centers and retail strips too.
One thing that sort of represents our economy right now is Colorado Crossing at Interquest. It was purchased by a Denver investment group, and it’s about time. That’s huge. I think, soon enough, that will be a pretty big hub.
What models are popular in restaurant and retail markets?
Quick casual restaurants are huge. We’re seeing a lot more of that. We have some restaurant vacancies around 7,500 square feet, which is big. That model, I think is fading a little bit.
How has the market changed in the years since you’ve been involved in real estate?
It’s much better. There’s a lot of room to grow. I think, now, we’re starting to see some of Denver’s trickledown. Up there the rents and housing prices are astronomically high. Up north we see a lot of the houses in the Cordera neighborhood being sold to Denver people willing to commute and invest the money they save in a nicer house.
But business parks up north have also seen that effect. A-rated office buildings are trying to find big tenants and national employers to fill spots, but the overall market is good and continues to get better.
What kind of growth would you like to see?
I think infill is important. In downtown… old, tired uses are being moved out of the way and replaced with something that creates more of a community feel. We’re a big little town here so I think that’s important for Colorado Springs. Things like the commercial redevelopments happening on South Nevada [Avenue] are huge.
It continues to show the exciting changes we want to see — things that appeal to me as a young broker and to the younger crowd. As young professionals, we don’t necessarily have to go north, there’s a lot of that change [happening downtown].
What’s your opinion of the opportunities here for young professionals?
There are lots of opportunities to make a substantial change within our community. As a big small town you can get to know the right people and you’ll see them everywhere. There are also lots of nonprofits you can get involved in.
How are you involved in the community?
I’ve been with Big Brothers Big Sisters for about three years now. We provide an outlet for kids who are struggling and give them an escape. I do the Sports Buddies Program.
We do anything sports-related — we go to Sky Sox games, we play football, we’ve gone to the Olympic Training Center a few times and toured and talked with athletes.
Did your friends from high school also stick around Colorado Springs?
Some went to Denver, but most of my friends went out of state. But a few, recently, have moved back to the Springs because of the energy in the community. One thing I hear a lot is that this is a place you can grow a family in. … And it’s only an hour to Denver. It’s great to start a life here but you can go to Denver if you choose.
Because growth here is slower than northern Colorado, do you think this market is more insulated from real-estate bubble bursts?
Bubbles concern me somewhat. But it goes both ways. If the bubble pops, we’re a little slower to feel the effects, but we will feel the effects. But the same is said when the market is better. It’s taken a lot longer for us to climb [out of the recession] than Denver. We may not be hit as hard, but it also takes longer for us to recover.
What do you see happening in local real estate in the next 10 years?
For me, I’m still here at Olive. For the community, I see continued expansion to the north and hopefully more development around downtown. UCCS will continue to grow and will create a draw to the Springs. It will be special to see.
How we’re affected by surrounding economies will be important in 10 years, with Denver especially. [Denver’s] expansion and the need for housing and affordability will impact us down here.
Anything you’re looking forward to as far as new properties?
Oskar Blues downtown. That will be huge, especially for that location. That’s one I’m really excited for. One that’s already up and running, on Dublin and Powers [boulevards], is Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. … They’re doing extremely well and cater to the younger crowd. That’s a big deal for that area.