Real Estate Investing in Toronto: A Q&A with Sasha Cucuz of Greybrook Realty Partners
Greybrook Realty Partners has long believed in the city of Toronto and the GTA—having invested in the city’s growth through the development of residential real estate for over 15 years. With over 60 local projects currently under way, the real estate firm is a heavyweight contributor to Toronto’s story, shaping for future generations how it will function and compare on a global scale.
To learn more about the ways residential development is shaping the city, we caught up with Sasha Cucuz, CEO of Greybrook Securities Inc. and a proud Torontonian. He discusses how developers can contribute to the cultural fabric of the city, Greybrook Realty’s upcoming Fireside Chat with TL Insider, and the firm’s recent partnership with Delos Canada, aimed at making the buildings we occupy healthier.
What makes Toronto a favourable investment destination?
Often, people assume our choice to invest heavily in the city is because we’re from here, but it’s not that simple. Toronto has an extremely diverse need when it comes to housing—it’s not only people looking for multi-million-dollar homes. A city this dynamic requires an equally dynamic range of projects, which opens up a ton of opportunities for developers. Not to mention, while other large cities in North America tend to observe a negative net migration, Toronto continues to gain residents rather than seeing them leave. This makes for a very unique dynamic in the city, certainly worth investing in.
Do you feel equally optimistic about the GTA?
Absolutely! As the city continues to grow and the downtown densifies, the GTA will offer an appealing balance for people to be close to the benefits of Toronto but with housing and space for families that is a bit more affordable. I estimate that this will continue until the surrounding districts reach populations of over 1 million. We’re quite active in the GTA for this reason, with developments in Durham, Peele, York Region, Fergus and more.
What would you say are some of the most transformative components this type of development offers a city?
Keeping in mind Toronto’s diverse needs, our development approach has always prioritized balance. An integral part to any city is its livability by way of amenities and services—something that usually comes as a byproduct of residential development. I think what is most transformative to the cities and neighbourhoods we invest in is the communities that our investments bring about. This mixed-use planning philosophy envisions our residential buildings weaved with offices, schools, retail space and services that allow residents to thrive in their own neighbourhoods. In contrast to older models which compartmentalized these necessities and leave residential spaces stationed without the functionality of a community.
Which project are you most excited about?
Our Sterling Junction development, with developer partner Marlin Spring, is especially exciting in that it checks so many boxes in terms of opportunity in the area. We joke that it is our best smelling site—being right next to a chocolate factory—but it’s also the second most transit accessible site in the city and neighbours the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the new focal point of the entire neighbourhood.
What are some of the investments Greybrook Realty is making outside of Toronto?
While our roots are in Canada, we’ve been active in the United States since 2014. We’re really excited about a current project underway in Miami, Florida. The luxurious Waldorf Astoria Residences Miami, to stand 1,049 feet tall, will be the tallest residential building south of Manhattan. It’s a development born out of our partnership with PMG and Hilton.
How does Greybrook Realty preserve the history and cultures of the city?
In Toronto, we’re not witnessing the benefits of preservation in the same way you do in cities across Europe or Asia, for example. As a young city, it is in constant evolution. From a development perspective, I believe it’s important, and consider it a service to future generations, that we pay attention to the preservation of Toronto’s histories. I also believe this preservation can be done in a lot of different ways.
Sometimes it comes to the name and design of buildings. During the development stage of our Stockyards District Residences, it was important for us and partner Marlin Spring to build a mid-rise redbrick building that pays homage to the history of the meatpacking district there and design our plan within the boundaries of aesthetic and culture in mind. As early investors in Liberty Village, we were able to be a part of a brand new neighbourhood in Toronto. While we hope to breathe new life into the Stockyards, we have to approach this plan aware of its origin story and proceed proudly as a part of that story continued, not rewritten.
What do you think it will take to bring Toronto back to a state of prosperity post-pandemic?
Ultimately, I think what it’s going to take is for people to feel safe again. Our nature is to be social, and while our interest in that remains, what will bring us truly back to a state of normalcy will be an assured sense of safety. However we get there—when we reach that feeling of safety and relief, I think the city will bounce back very quickly and very organically.
Our line of work has brought us to think a lot about how buildings and our time spent inside truly affects our lives. We’ve recently invested in and partnered with Delos Living and its sister company, the International Well Building Institute (IWBI) to help them expand upon their portfolio of real estate health and wellness solutions and certifications across Canada. One such innovation is the WELL Health Safety Rating, which has gained exceptional traction throughout North America across major retail spaces, corporate buildings, sporting venues and schools and is helping people return to these spaces with confidence that their health and safety has been put first. The WELL Health and Safety Rating is the world’s leading third-party verification of an indoor environment’s health and safety protocols and addresses key features such as ensuring appropriate air filtration and cleaning and sanitization procedures, among several important features.
I can proudly say that along with industry leaders like Brookfield and Scotiabank Arena, Greybrook Realty Partners was one of the first in Canada to achieve the Well Health-Safety Rating. At the end of the day, it matters how you address indoor air quality in particular and I see joining forces with Delos and IWBI as as an opportunity for Canadian businesses to rise to the occasion and bring us back to normal.
What can members expect from your virtual Fireside Chat on May 18?
We want to delve deep into our up-and-coming projects within the city, as well as our development philosophy so that members can get a glimpse of what goes into Toronto’s city-planning from a residential perspective. Like a lot of major developers in Toronto, we are one of the biggest proponents of the city. We also want to discuss what we think it will take to confidently bring people back to work and to the places they love within the city and how Greybrook and much of the development community is thinking through the creation of healthy buildings, homes and really improving the health and wellness aspects of any indoor structure with a front door —especially as we anticipate a prosperous, post-pandemic Toronto.
Register for TL Insider’s virtual Fireside Chat on the Comeback of Toronto with Sasha Cucuz, CEO of Greybrook Securities Inc. on May 18, 1 p.m. Use password DOWNTOWN here.