The Q Factor team is revitalizing neighborhoods across the US
“I always say I like to change careers every decade,” laughs Q Factor co-founder Ellen Winkler. In her 20s, she was a civil engineer. In her 30s, she and her husband Jason headed action sports video production and event planning for brands like Red Bull (they’re both avid skiers, with Jason doing it professionally at one point). In her 40s, they founded Q Factor, a development empire that focuses on revitalizing neglected downtown areas in cities across the nation.
Their flagship development is INDUSTRY, a set of mixed-use workspaces that emphasizes thoughtful design and local integration in Denver, Colorado. Her latest frontier? INDUSTRY Salt Lake City. The Q Factor team is revitalizing the Granary District in a way that harnesses Utah’s unique and adventurous spirit by utilizing what’s already available.
Specializing in adaptive reuse, Q Factor repurposes existing buildings and structures for new functions. This practice allows Q Factor to maintain the integrity of neighborhoods without disrupting locals. They have no hand in residential real estate; they seek out unoccupied structures. True adaptive reuse revitalizes an area without demolishing older buildings in order to build generic structures that are incohesive with the region’s architecture and landscape. Q Factor isn’t interested in turning an area into something it’s not. Harmony, preservation, and sustainability are paramount.
INDUSTRY SLC successfully completed its first phase in 2021, opening 100,000 square feet of space and leasing every available office. So far, INDUSTRY SLC has leased more space than both Denver INDUSTRY locations combined.
Approximately 230,000 additional square feet of space is in the works at the Granary District with future plans that include covered outdoor workspaces with sweeping views of the Wasatch range, pickleball courts, hammock gardens, and outposts of local restaurants like Slackwater Pizzeria.
Common areas account for about a third of INDUSTRY’s acreage, a large amount compared to most offices in the US. This is because Winkler encourages colleagues and tenants to take a third of the work day to relax in common spaces and get outside. “Work is boring a lot of the time,” she admits. “Email is boring. It helps to be visually stimulated and take breaks.”
Whether tenants decide to take a pet for a walk, socialize on the deck, or take in head-clearing canyon views, INDUSTRY is built for work and the leisure that allows good work to flourish. ”We live in Salt Lake because we want to be outdoors,” says Winkler. “There’s a reason [people pick] Salt Lake City.”
Q Factor launched its first phase of INDUSTRY SLC in 2020, just as Covid ramped up. Despite the obstacle, the team maintained its vision. “We kept to our mission wholeheartedly. We did not pivot, we did not change, and that’s why I think it worked so well,” says Winkler.
Winkler cites their success as a need for more thoughtful and integrated workspaces, both despite and due to the big shift to remote work. “[People want to work from home] to a point, but we’re social beings. We need to get out.” While working remotely has been a boon for many Americans, remaining workers are now looking for unique workspaces that make leaving home worth the trouble. As for the traditional offices of the past, Winkler thinks their time is limited. “Covid separated OK spaces from more thoughtful and integrated spaces. I think Covid is going to have to make [others] reimagine [the office].”
The reimagination of office space at INDUSTRY SLC is being brought to life by Winkler, Q Factor’s team of architects and designers, and the city, which joined Q Factor in a public-private partnership. “The mayor’s office and permitting department have been heroes behind the scene,” says Winkler. “They’ve embraced what we’re doing.” Despite Winkler’s great eye for revitalization, she says that each moving part had to come together to make INDUSTRY SLC a prominent figure in the Granary District and the overall landscape of SLC. Currently, they’re set to develop 39 acres with several partners. “It can’t just be my voice,” says Winkler.
Next on the docket for Winkler is INDUSTRY Bozeman, Detroit, and her new career for the next decade: visionary city builder. “I love being an amateur,” Winkler says. She sees her lack of training as an advantage rather than a hindrance; her background and aggregation of knowledge are what enable her to manage Q Factor’s architectural team. In the coming years, Q Factor may very well expand into urban development as Winkler and her teams expand their vision. “I’m not classically trained,” Winkler says, but considering what she’s built, her intuition has yet to let her down. “I can feel it.”