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North Vancouver industrial property changes hands in $145M sale

Hydrogen fuel plant approved for site in major new investment
The sale of 100 Forester Street this spring ranks as one of the biggest industrial deals of the year and sets the stage for a hydrogen liquefaction plant serving the region.

A 21-acre industrial property on the North Vancouver waterfront has changed hands for $145 million.

Vancouver-based Hydrogen Technology & Energy Corp. (HTEC) closed on the purchase of 100 Forester Street on April 30, following 16 months of due diligence with specialty chemicals producer ERCO Worldwide.

“The sale encompassed a complex, multi-year process involving transaction and capital structuring, regulatory strategizing, as well as zoning and land use approvals from the District of North Vancouver,” Avison Young noted in a June 13 press release announcing the sale.

The transaction, announced in December 2022, was originally expected to close in March 2023 “subject to customary commercial closing conditions.”

The site will be home to a 15 tonne-per-day clean hydrogen plant to capture, purify and process the by-product hydrogen to meet the growing market demand for low-carbon transportation fuels.

Originally expected to be operational by early 2026, the date has now been pushed out. A virtual public information session on the proposal is scheduled for June 24-July 8.

“This transaction marks a significant milestone in our mission to deliver clean hydrogen transportation fuel to BC and the broader Pacific Northwest region,” said Colin Armstrong, president and CEO of HTEC.

ERCO Worldwide will lease back a portion of the property on a long-term basis for its manufacturing operations, which includes generating by-product hydrogen gas through electrolysis.

The deal was brokered by Avison Young and CBRE Ltd.

Avison Young’s Ryan Kerr, Ian Whitchelo, Amir Pourmina and Terry Thies were the exclusive advisors and agents for HTEC. CBRE brokers Chris MacCauley and Travis Blanleil represented ERCO.

Avison Young described the deal as the largest industrial land transaction ever seen in North Vancouver.

BC Assessment data indicates that the property last traded in a non-arm’s length transaction in February 2021 for $95.59 million. The current assessed value is $104.2 million.

However, CoStar Group notes that the 2021 transaction wasn’t strictly a real estate deal but rather former owner Superior Plus Corp. spinning off its specialty chemicals business, ERCO Worldwide. The purchaser was Birch Hill Equity Partners, a Toronto based investment firm.

The latest transaction trumps both the previous deal, as well as most others in the past decade.

“This transaction is the largest on the North Shore, dating back ten years,” said Paul Richter, director, market analytics with CoStar.

While a 27-acre site on McKeen Avenue sold seven years ago for $120 million, it hasn’t yielded the benefits anticipated from HTEC’s acquisition. It has faced hurdles in the approvals process that ERCO and HTEC worked out prior to concluding their deal.

This makes it “a true success story for the North Vancouver business community,” in Richter’s opinion.

“HTEC is a North Vancouver startup and it’ll play a role in creating further economic growth opportunities related to hydrogen adoption,” he said.

The deal between for 100 Forester Street came together at the same time as another specialty chemicals company, Chemtrade, was marketing its 40-acre site at 100 Amherst Avenue.

Chemtrade went public with plans to sell the property in April 2022 but a deal for the site, which has an assessed value of $234.5 million, was never reached.

The Port of Vancouver has an option to purchase the site when Chemtrade’s lease runs out in 2032.