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ICBC to vacate North Vancouver offices in next 3 to 5 years, leaving prime real estate empty

ICBC says it is planning to move out of its North Vancouver office space in the next three to five years. Global News

After more than four decades on Lower Lonsdale, ICBC informed its employees this week that it will be vacating its headquarters at 151 West Esplanade St. in North Vancouver in the next three to five years.

The 1980 building, which is owned by the public insurance corporation, has just under 300,000 square feet of leasable space and was most recently assessed at $103.2 million.

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Former North Vancouver city mayor Darrell Mussatto, who helped transform Lower Lonsdale into a waterfront destination, expects the prime real estate will be developed with the potential for a new condo tower with ground-floor retail space.

“I would imagine that there would be some significant density that would have to come for residential development there, so you would probably see something like a high rise building built in that place,” Mussatto said.

North Vancouver city mayor Linda Buchanan said she’s sad to see such a large public sector employer leave but that the move represents a significant opportunity for the community.

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“While the city does not own the land, we are keen to engage with people and the province about the possibilities,” Buchanan said in an emailed statement.

“The city has a strong record of improving our waterfront so that it is accessible to all people while contributing to our economy and I trust that will continue to be the case as we look to the future.”

ICBC said only a few hundred people now work inside the six-storey building, which used to house 1,500 employees before the pandemic.

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Spokesperson Adam Grossman said COVID sped up ICBC’s switch to a hybrid environment where employees split their time between the office and working remotely.

“We have a very big head office building that’s only 20 to 40 per cent occupied on any given day so it doesn’t make sense and it’s not fiscally responsible with our customer’s money for us to stay long term,” Grossman told Global News.

While no employees will be moving out until 2025 at the earliest, the sushi restaurant next door, which relies on ICBC for its lunch rush, is concerned.

“It does worry me,” Brad Cho of Yohachi Sushi said Friday.

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“I’m afraid that our dine-in tables are going to get all empty.”

Lift Breakfast Bakery co-owner Jane Young said her small business also counts on the insurance corporation’s employees.

“A lot of our regulars are ICBC members. They come for lunch and they’ll also do takeaway,” Young told Global News.

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While some business may be lost, Mussatto believes there will be long-term gain whether ICBC decides to sell or lease the building.

“We’ll miss ICBC but I don’t think it will be as devastating as it would have been 10 to 15 years ago,” said Mussatto, who noted the area has changed with the addition of the Shipyards development.

“Hopefully in the longer term the replacement value will be in the new residents,” added Young.

ICBC told Global News it will be relocating staff to a new head office hub close to public transit in a more central location like Burnaby or Vancouver.

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