The previous B.C. Liberal government was considering the sale of ICBC’s North Vancouver head office. But North Vancouver-Lonsdale’s new NDP MLA, Bowinn Ma, says her government is halting that plan.
ICBC had prepared an internal business case at the direction of the Liberal government, laying out options for the future of the property at 151 West Esplanade, which has been in use since 1980.
“ICBC was instructed to begin the process required to sell off their Lonsdale Quay property a couple of years ago by the previous government in a desperate attempt to try to improve ICBC’s books,” Ma confirmed to the North Shore News on Thursday. “The new government has given instructions, under no uncertain terms, for this process to be stopped.”
But even if the office is to stay put, it has major financial liabilities attached.
“Given the age and condition of the head office building, significant expenditures for maintenance and upgrades will be required over the next 10-20 years. This expenditure is estimated to be at $184 million with the majority of the costs required during the first 10 years of this period,” states the business case, obtained by the News.
Among the upgrades needed, according to the report: $36 million for seismic upgrades, $27 million for deferred maintenance, $23 million for building envelope repairs and $44 million for enhancements.
Other options included selling the property and leasing new office space elsewhere in the Lower Mainland or buying/building a new head office elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.
In 2016, the property was assessed at $79,768,000, although the building itself was valued at just $15.8 million. In the previous year, the building was valued at close to $23 million, according to BC Assessment.
Staffing and commuting to the office is also an issue. At the time the report was written, only 27 per cent of the 1,500 people who work in the office actually reside on the North Shore. Seventy per cent commute from somewhere on the other side of the Burrard Inlet. That is a trend ICBC expects to continue.
“Housing on the North Shore is expensive compared to most of the Lower Mainland,” the report notes. “This does not make it attractive or affordable for employees to live close to the head office building.”
The public insurance corporation has been in turmoil since a report surfaced last month that it must raise auto insurance rates by as much as 30 per cent or face insolvency. Attorney General David Eby has fired a number of the previous government’s appointed directors and selected new ones.
Ma said she was not familiar with the details of the business plan and could not speak to the issues with the building itself. But she added that selling the land would be a short-sighted strategy.
“Selling that land will not fix ICBC. It will not put a dent in it. If that land is sold to private interests, the North Shore would have lost 1,000 jobs. The public would have lost control over one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in North Vancouver,” she said.