Kwanlin Dun First Nation to develop Northwestel's new HQ in Whitehorse

·3 min read
An aerial view of where the new Northwestel building, developed by the Chu Níikwän Development Corporation, will be built in Whitehorse. (Submitted by Northwestel - image credit)
An aerial view of where the new Northwestel building, developed by the Chu Níikwän Development Corporation, will be built in Whitehorse. (Submitted by Northwestel - image credit)

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation in Whitehorse is taking on its biggest development project since starting its business arm.

Chu Níikwän Development Corporation and Northwestel are partnering to build the telco's new headquarters in downtown Whitehorse.

"It is the biggest project that we're financing alone without external help," said Rick O'Brien, CEO of Chu Níikwän. "We know it's going to be one of many to come down the road."

The new building will be on Kwanlin Dün settlement lands on Quartz Road, near Walmart. Construction is expected to start in September with a view to having the building completed by January 2024.

Chu Níikwän will own the building and lease it to Northwestel for a minimum of 20 years.

'Chu Níikwän really understood our vision'

Andrew Anderson, Northwestel's director of marketing and communications, said the telco wanted a new energy-efficient building that was capable of supporting its high tech workforce and allow them to collaborate with other employees and partners across the North.

"Chu Níikwän really understood our vision," he said.

Northwestel will occupy the top two floors of the new 41,000-square-foot building while the main floor's 13,500 square feet will be available for office or retail space.

Anderson said about half of the company's 300 employees in the Yukon will move into the new building once it's built.

He said the company will look at selling some of the buildings it currently occupies in Whitehorse, including its current headquarters on Lambert Street, as it transitions into the new building.

Northwestel will also keep some of its buildings including what it calls its "compound building" near the airport, Anderson added.

"That's a sort of headquarters for our technical workforce. We will stay at that location. It's a good place for trucks to roll out of and come into," he said.

More people approaching FN development corporation

The deal with the Chu Níikwän Development Corporation is the second partnership Northwestel announced with First Nations in a little over a month.

Last month, it announced a deal with a consortium of 13 Yukon First Nation development corporations. The newly-formed Yukon First Nations Telco LP bought $10 million worth of fibre optic infrastructure from Northwestel and agreed to lease it back to the telecom over the next 20 years.

Fred Koe, chair of the Da Daghay Development Corporation and spokesperson for the Yukon First Nations Telco LP, said at the time the deal would open the door for other projects.

Chu Niikwan's O'Brien said he's noticed an increase in people approaching the development corporation "to figure out how we can work with them and the benefits to flow both ways so both parties will win."

"These are partnerships that first and foremost, make really good business sense and help us advance our mission to really improve connectivity in the Yukon," said Anderson.

Wildstone Construction Group will design and build the building while CIBC will finance it.

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