St. Regis Hotel developer says 2015 bankruptcy won’t affect project

The buyer of the St. Regis Hotel says the sole-listed owner’s previous personal bankruptcy will not affect the success of the planned mixed-use parking, retail and residential project.

“We’re very well-funded. We have a track record of successful building,” said DJ Trudeau, vice president of leasing and property management for Rockport Investment Group. 

Winnipeg-based Rockport Investment Group’s sole listed shareholder, John Gerald Matheson, declared personal bankruptcy five years ago after running up a debt of $4.8 million, according to court documents.

He was one of the owners of the now-defunct Bentley Homes who told CBC News the company had gone broke in 2014.

“That was a very tragic, unfortunate event. No one anticipates to go through that, especially when you’re a business owner,” said Trudeau.

Rockport is the second developer to take a stab at developing the site which was acquired by CentreVenture — an arm’s-length City of Winnipeg downtown development agency — in 2013.

Richmond Hill, Ont., developer Fortress Real Developments bought the property in 2015, planning to use it as phase one of the now-cancelled SkyCity Centre — a 45-storey residential tower on the site of the adjacent surface parking lot at the corner of Smith Street and Graham Avenue.

Fortress failed to start construction by its April 2017 deadline and CentreVenture bought the hotel back in late 2018 for the original $4 million price tag minus more than $700,000 in penalties, reacquisition costs and back taxes, according to CentreVenture CEO Angela Mathieson.

Mathieson says she is aware of the new owner’s bankruptcy but she says it’s important to consider the developments Rockport has completed.

Rockport recently built the Bella Vista Luxury Living apartments and condos on Warde Avenue in Island Lakes, according to its website.

“We do the due diligence on the companies … we think they have the capacity and the experience to complete the project. We felt confident to transact with them,” Mathieson said, noting CentreVenture retains the right to repossess properties it sells if construction targets are not met.

DJ Trudeau is the vice president of leasing and property management for Rockport Investment Group. He is also a realtor for Century 21. (DJ Trudeau/Facebook)

Rockport is already ahead of CentreVenture’s construction schedule, having started the demolition of the 110-year-old hotel prior to the Nov. 30 deadline. The developer has two-and-a-half years to substantially complete the project, according to the development agreement. 

Trudeau says the plan is to have heated parking, which would expand capacity for Jets games and other events at the Bell MTS Centre.

He is also hoping to bring a grocery store in as a tenant to add to the handful of downtown grocers which include Sun Wah Supermarket on King St., Family Foods on Donald St. and Mottola Grocery in True North Square. 

“We’re going to knock on doors and try and get that in our building,” said Trudeau. 

Trudeau says Rockport’s knowledge of the Winnipeg market, combined with the work they put into analyzing this development, will ensure its completion. 

“I’m confident in our group,” said Trudeau. “Based off our track record, what we’ve built … this is going to be a successful project that’s going to be fantastic for downtown Winnipeg.”

CentreVenture says construction is slated to begin in 2021.