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B.C. government to convert ICBC headquarters into housing

B.C. government announces purchase, re-development of ICBC headquarters in North Vancouver
Premier David Eby Monday (June 17) announces government's purchase of ICBC headquarters in North Vancouver near Lonsdale Quay Market. Government plans to re-develop the site into transit-oriented housing.

The re-development of ICBC's headquarters in North Vancouver into housing could be a template for other publicly-owned properties to be used for housing, Premier David Eby said Monday (June 17).

"We are hearing from school boards and health authorities as well as post-secondary institutions about how they can use their land to build housing that may support staff that work in those different sites," he said. "We are also hearing from municipalities that have municipal utility sites or in one case the city hall site that they are planning on re-developing to be able to create housing above the city hall (building). So there's lots of exciting potential at multiple levels of government around this." 

Eby made these comments in North Vancouver, where he announced the ICBC property would be re-developed into transit-oriented development. ICBC has been operating at the site for more than 40 years. 

Eby said the project is part of government's $394-million commitment to deliver more than 10,000 housing units on government-owned land near transit-hubs over the next 10 to 15 years. Government in 2023 created specific legislation to encourage transit-oriented developments. The North Vancouver project is the third project of its kind, but key details, such as the proposed number of units and their completion date were not immediately available. 

Eby said the planning for the waterfront site next to Lonsdale Quay Market will proceed as ICBC begins its expected two-year-long transition to new leased spaces near the Clark SkyTrain station in Vancouver. Government said the current headquarters operates at less than half-capacity on most days because of ICBC's hybrid work model. 

"One of the great pieces about today's announcement is that the only group being displaced from this site are ICBC workers and they are going to move to a beautiful new office building at VCC-Clark," Eby said. 

"At this point, the best we can say is that we're expecting hundreds of units of housing on this site," he continued. "It will depend on the planning and the work that we have yet to do and I'm very much looking forward to seeing that come online as quickly as possible."

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said the ICBC property is an ideal place to build homes near a site that has been part of Metro Vancouver's public transportation system for the better part of a century.

"There is going to be a lot of work to come and some of the details that people...are searching for are yet to be decided because we want to be collaborative," Fleming said. "But obviously, there are tremendous opportunities." 

Government said it will re-develop the site in partnership with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Peoples. Other partners include TransLink and the City of North Vancouver.

What made this project possible is a larger trend: increased remote work that has lessened the need for institutional office space. While this trend has caused concern among industries catering to office workers, it has also created opportunities to convert office space into living space.  

One recent development likely further lessening the need for office space is the provincial government's relaxation of rules requiring people to relocate to Victoria. Eby said this change not only expands the hiring pool and gives government a broader perspective, it also lessens the demand for office space in Greater Victoria. 

"I can see that over time, that could result in the potential for having conversations about conversions for housing and that kind of thing," he said. "We are not currently there, but certainly that is something that could happen."

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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