If you take a long, hard look at the business of building in the Greater Toronto Area, the takeaways are gloomy. Projects are being cancelled and delayed in spades, costing the region potential billions. And meanwhile, we’re seeing developers mired in receivership proceedings that, in some cases, leave an indelible mark.

Amidst that dismal backdrop, Rockport Group has something to cheer for. At the end of May, the GTA development company held a ceremony to commemorate the topping off of The Davisville: a luxury-forward, 12-storey boutique condominium that’s coming up at 8 Manor Road West in midtown.

“It was a celebration of getting to the point where the forming is complete, the building has reached its highest elevation point and we're gonna get to start doing the important finishing work within the building,” Daniel Winberg, Rockport’s Chief Operating Officer, tells STOREYS. “I think a lot of groups haven't really celebrated much in the last many years. On Friday, we really wanted to take the time to celebrate the people that that have gotten us here.”

65 Years Of “Building For People”

Despite being a smaller, more tight-knit operation than some of the other big names in local building, Rockport Group is nothing short of an authority in the GTA’s development segment. The company has been around for over 65 years, after all.

Burt Winberg founded Rockport in 1957, and today, it’s run by his son, Jack Winberg, and his grandson, Daniel Winberg. Across three generations of Winbergs, Rockport has flourished, bringing tens of thousands of new residential units to the region, while trailblazing concepts that would go on to shape the industry at a higher level. One example: Rockport registered the first Condominium Corporations in the Toronto area in 1968, essentially pioneering the condominium concept as we know it today.

But if 65 years has taught the team over at Rockport anything, it’s not to be pigeonholed. Rather, Rockport strives to move in harmony with the needs of the market and to adapt with the times.

“My grandfather always said it best: the hardest thing about being in business is staying in business. So for the past 65-plus years now, we've really always been real estate investors, and we’ve always looked at each site with very specific, but also very wide lenses,” says Daniel Winberg. “And we've built every type of residential housing typology to date. We started with low-rise, we've gotten into high-rise, multi-family rental, we’ve built every type of commercial opportunity, with the exception of traditional office. And we approach every site really strategically, we're always focused on bringing in positive change into an existing community.”

rockport groupJack and Daniel Winberg, CEO and COO of Rockport Group (rockportgroup.net)

Another big focus for Rockport right now is seniors housing — something that can’t seem to brought to market fast enough these days, as baby boomers enter their retirement years in droves. “It's a side of the business where the demographics couldn't be couldn't be any stronger or any more compelling to us,” Winberg adds.

“The one theme here is we're really building for people that are actually living in the units. And we just find, when you're selling to people that are actually going to live in the retirement home or the apartment building or the condo, they have a real vested interest.”

And fostering that connection is important to Rockport. And it’s something the company has learned to harness over the years — not only to ensure the success of their projects, but to the benefit of end-users as well. As an example, Rockport takes the time to run new technology and new amenities by their prospective buyers before bringing those features to market.

“We'll do as much as we can ahead of time, through the sales process or the rendering process, to really let the let the end-user actually see and touch and understand. Because we feel it actually allows them to be part of the process; it builds trust,” Winberg says. “Some people will be like, ‘wow, this is amazing,’ or some people will say, ‘this is too complicated for me.’ There's a bit of a learning curve to that.”

A Challenging Present, A Hopeful Future

The GTA’s building segment has moved from one extreme to the next over the past decade or so. Over the past two years and change, interest rates and inflationary pressures have put potential buyers firmly on the sidelines. And though the Bank of Canada announced the first rate cut of the cycle last Wednesday, times are still remarkably tough.

Recent data from Urbanation shows that developers have shelved 60 previously planned condo projects across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area since 2022. As a result, just 958 new pre-construction condos came to market across the region in the first three months of the year. Even with interest rates finally coming down, it will hardly erase the far-reaching impacts of these realities, or the dark shadow cast over the sector.

Winberg underlines that Rockport hasn’t been immune to these challenges — “there just hasn't been a market for people to purchase a high-rise condo because of where interest rates are, because the where construction costs have been,” he notes — however, they have been able to weather the storm better than most, and that's evidenced by the launch of The Davisville. As the project nears completion, it’s a glimmer of positivity, and representative that there are still good things coming out of these tough times. Things, as Winberg has mentioned, “to celebrate.”

In addition to The Davisville project, Rockport has projects in various stages of the planning and development cycle at 277 Wellington Street West, 717-733 Mt. Pleasant Road, and 4884-4896 Dundas Street West, and and BASE31 in Prince Edward County.

“I'd say the biggest value that people get when buying [into] one of our buildings is that we've done this so many different times, in so many different ways. We're the developer that's always there — in the beginning, the middle, the end, and then some. We really are a passionate group that loves what we do,” Winberg says.

“In the case of The Davisville, we're gonna finish these units wonderfully, they're gonna stand the test of time. And when the market sentiment starts to come back, we will be there to welcome them home.”