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Editorial: ICBC deal scant on details about prime piece of North Van real estate

Planning needs to be well thought out as the province aims to turn a prime North Vancouver waterfront property into ‘hundreds’ of units of housing
The province is set to buy the ICBC building on the North Vancouver waterfront with a plan to turn the prime piece of real estate into “hundreds” of units of housing. | Jane Seyd / North Shore News

On Monday, Premier David Eby dropped by to proclaim the province will soon be the owner of a cool waterfront property in North Van – home to ICBC’s headquarters for the past four decades – which the government intends to redevelop into housing.

So far so good. The announcement is hardly a surprise. It fits with the province’s goals of using public assets to create housing near transit hubs. Nor is it a stretch to think better use could be made of that space. Having a mostly vacant and aging building with significant seismic issues squatting on prime real estate benefits no one.

Beyond the broad strokes, however, Monday’s announcement was scant on details.

What will be built, how much it will cost, who will be in charge and who will pay for it are all questions that remain unanswered. We’re told that “hundreds” of housing units will be built. Whether that’s 100 or 800 is anyone’s guess. Eby stressed the homes built will be “attainable,” but attainable for whom?

One of the more curious parts of the deal, decidedly not stressed at the feel-good event, is the discrepancy between what we’re told is the $53.5-million purchase price and the $92-million assessed value of the property. On the surface of it, that’s a mighty magnanimous gift from the former financial “dumpster fire” the province vowed to no longer treat as a convenient ATM.

ICBC isn’t vacating the office for new digs across the inlet for another three years, which leaves plenty of time for a clearer picture to be revealed to the public.

This is an opportunity to plan something great on a prime piece of real estate. The devil will be in the details.

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