W. Don Whyte
Shining Through the Real Estate Storms
January 1, 2008
There’s a new exodus to the West. But instead of covered wagons, Audis are transporting settlers as they begin to inhabit the West Bench Project designed by Kennecott Land and Rio Tinto. The foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains are the final frontier in the Salt Lake Valley and Kennecott Land President W. Don Whyte has been hired to lead the project into the future.
Unlike many developers, who measure success by the number of homes built, Whyte’s vision includes communities with acres of open space intended to create unified neighborhoods. The newly filled Oquirrh Lake, located in the Daybreak community in South Jordan, is just part of the open-space master plan attracting residents who enjoy the fishing, sailing or walking paths.
“The most important decision you make in life is where to build your home. We play a huge role in that,” Whyte says. “We’re creating communities designed around neighborhood centers.”
With more than 30 years of experience in the land-use business, Whyte brings first-hand knowledge to the West Bench Project. Throughout his career, Whyte has been involved with creating master-planned communities in Florida, Colorado and Canada. He replaces former Kennecott Land President Peter McMahon, who stepped down from his post in June 2007.
After relocating to Utah with his wife, Billie Jo, in July, Whyte hit the ground running to keep up the enthusiasm and excitement the project has generated. With his strong beliefs in environmentally conscious activities, Whyte joined other Salt Lake City leaders to participate in the 2007 Solar American Cities project. This venture helps advance residential solar installations in housing developments. Kennecott Land also became part of the Blue Sky program, giving residents the option to use renewable energy.
Even though the real estate market is slowing down, Whyte plans to keep the development viable by offering both less expensive and higher-end product types in the West Bench Project. But, he adds, the quality and connection to community will be the same whether the property is a residential dwelling, a town home or an apartment complex. Whyte believes if a development is sustainable, safe and environmentally friendly, it will survive the ups and downs of the real estate market.
“We’re a company that can afford to be patient,” Whyte says. “A plan that’s well thought through can weather every kind of storm.”
Whyte is described by employees as a personable, approachable, hands-on type of leader. When he heard an intern was heading to Cincinnati, he arranged for the young man to have tickets to a ballgame. During a highway clean-up project, Whyte was right there along with his employees picking up trash on the side of the road. A big ski enthusiast and golfer, he spends two hours every evening in the gym doing cardio workouts and relieving stress.
Putting his money where his mouth is, Whyte purchased a home in the Daybreak community and moved in right before Thanksgiving. And in the spring of 2008, Kennecott Land will move its offices to Daybreak, adding to the unique, urban aspect of the community.
Whyte credits the current success of the West Bench Project to the dedication of his employees and their enthusiasm for their work. “You couldn’t find people more passionate and committed,” Whyte says. “This is more than just a place they come to work. I like to think that I draw out of our people the most they can contribute.”