On Monday, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced that it had purchased 151 Esplanade W, the six-storey office building that is the headquarters of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).

The office building was originally constructed in 1980, according to BC Assessment records, and has become a landmark in the City of North Vancouver, thanks in large part to its unique design and baby blue exterior. BC Assessment values the property at $92,218,000.

It sits directly above the Lonsdale Quay bus exchange, which is adjacent to the Lonsdale Quay SeaBus Terminal, making it a key transit hub that's optimal for transit-oriented development (TOD).

"Underused areas that are already well-connected to transit and close to services and amenities are the perfect places to build new homes," said Premier David Eby on Monday. "That's why we're buying up land near transit hubs and working with partners to shape development in a way that prioritizes the needs of the people who live and work in our communities over luxury condos."

The Province did not provide details about the transaction, except that it is part of the $394M commitment it has made towards transit-oriented developments. In 2022, the Transportation Act was amended to allow the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to acquire land near transit hubs to redevelop into housing and amenities, and this is the third TOD project the Province has announced, following the ones announced for Port Moody and Saanich.

The 151 Esplanade W site falls within the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, whom the Province says are making the project possible through an agreement with the BC Transporation Financing Authority. The Province says that the three First Nations will partner on the redevelopment.

Few concrete details about the project were provided, with Eby only saying that the project "will transform the site of a largely empty office building into a thriving community with hundreds of attainable homes for middle-income people" and that the mixed-use development would include amenities such as child care, health care, and public spaces.

The Province says the current estimate is that the TOD project would create several hundred homes.

Lonsdale Quay and 151 Esplanade W in the City of North Vancouver.Lonsdale Quay and 151 Esplanade W in the City of North Vancouver.(Natalia Bratslavsky, Shutterstock)

The project is also made possible by ICBC's decision to relocate its headquarters to The Hive, a new 10-storey office building that's currently being constructed at 2150 Keith Drive in Vancouver, next to the Millennium Line SkyTrain's VCC-Clark Station. The property is owned by organic food producer Nature's Path — under 1077333 BC Ltd. — and being developed by BGO (formerly known as BentallGreenOak), with construction expected to be completed in Q1 2025.

Last year, the Government of Canada — through Natural Resources Canada's Green Construction Through Wood Program — contributed $3.5M towards the project, which is using a hybrid mass timber construction and will have a unique honeycomb-like exterior.

A rendering of The Hive that's currently being constructed at 2150 Keith Drive in Vancouver.A rendering of The Hive that's currently being constructed at 2150 Keith Drive in Vancouver.(Dialog Design)

According to the Province, ICBC's lease at The Hive is for 15 years.

As a result of ICBC's hybrid work model, the Province says that the 300,000 sq. ft office in North Vancouver is currently operating at less than half capacity. At The Hive, ICBC will lease approximately 165,000 sq. ft, in the latest example of companies "right-sizing" their operations. A leasing listing by Colliers notes that The Hive has a total of 164,000 sq. ft, suggesting ICBC will be leasing the entire building.

The Province says ICBC expects to fully relocate its operations between December 2026 and May 2027.

"It's been an honour to be part of the Lower Lonsdale community as it has grown and thrived over the past 40 years," said ICBC CEO David Wong on Monday. "We're pleased to have worked with the Province on the sale of our head office and are now looking forward to moving to our new location in Vancouver's False Creek Flats neighbourhood."

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