The Shipyards opens as a landmark regional attraction on the Lonsdale waterfront (PHOTOS)

Jul 22 2019, 7:08 pm

The last time Metro Vancouver had a public space that resembled anything close to The Shipyards in North Vancouver was more than a decade ago, when the Plaza of Nations’ expansive glass canopy from the Expo ’86 World’s Fair still existed in Northeast False Creek.

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It was a covered outdoor space suitable for large events and even concerts — a type of all-season, event-friendly venue that the region is in dire need of today — but outside of those special occasions it struggled to see activity due to a lack of activities and under-maintenance.

Ten years later, enter The Shipyards on Lot 5 — a covered, multi-purpose, event-friendly plaza space surrounded by restaurants, shops, and anchor businesses that will bring people in. It had its grand opening celebrations this past weekend.

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

A portion of the roof is retractable, opening up to the covered area to an 8,000-sq-ft summertime water spray park with five rubberized landform mounds that shoot water up into the air.

Moreover, during the winter months, the 12,000-sq-ft covered event space will be converted into a free ice rink — the region’s largest outdoor ice rink, larger than Robson Square. The mounds are multi-purpose as well, with the ice sheet extending around the mounds, allowing skaters to skate around them. Skaters can either bring their own skates or rent a pair of skates on-site.

Artistic rendering of Lot 5’s covered outdoor ice rink that will be operational during the winter months. (City of North Vancouver)

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

And of course, there are also the panoramic views of the downtown Vancouver skyline and Burrard Inlet to enjoy from both the plaza level and the accessible upper level.

“I think it is distinctively North Vancouver. This project wouldn’t make sense other than the exact spot where it fits on the Lonsdale waterfront,” Shane Oleksiuk, an architect with DIALOG Architecture, told Daily Hive in an interview just before the grand opening.

“I think that makes it particularly interesting to North Vancouver, but also unique to the region. The ambition for the city, the owner, and for us is that it becomes a regional attraction. It is a special place.”

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

Oleksiuk says his firm participated in the City of North Vancouver’s procurement process three years ago and proposed the symbolic re-erection of the machine shop building that once stood on the site.

This heritage-inspired, six-storey-tall structure acts as the backdrop to the contemporary buildings that are part of the redevelopment. There is also expansive netting across the entire ceiling area that prevents the structure from being turned into the region’s largest pigeon roost.

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

Simply put, this is the latest and most significant public realm enhancement to the former industrial area just east of Lonsdale Quay to date. Previous phases added The Shipyards buildings that house Tap & Barrel restaurant, event spaces, shops, and an outdoor plaza that has become home to an annual summertime night market.

There is also the recently-opened Polygon Gallery, the new connectivity created by the extended Spirit Trail crossing through the area, the pier, and the surrounding residential developments.

“There have been many waterfront interventions, and this is one of the last pieces that holds everything together,” said Oleksiuk on the synergies and place-making efforts, adding that the redevelopment is very porous, which allows the public to enter and exit the site from all directions.

“You have really nice connections to the east and west, like Lonsdale Quay, and to the water and pier. All of those things have all been successful independently, and hopefully this attraction can support them all further and be its own centre of activity.”

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

But it will be months before all of the businesses open; there is approximately 85,000 sq. ft. of commercial space, including a two-level flagship JOEY Restaurant location with over 400 seats including a patio facing the water, Nook Italian restaurant, Jamjar Canteen Lebanese restaurant, Main Street Honey Shoppe, Caffe Artigiano, Method Indoor Cycling, and Volcom.

Other major tenants include the Seaside Hotel — a 70-room boutique hotel operated by Executive Hotels & Resorts — and a satellite campus for Capilano University.

A third level space of the building offers The Wallace — a bookable special event space with unobstructed views of the water and downtown Vancouver.

The only businesses that have already opened are Parlour Ice Cream and Larry’s vegetarian market, with the other tenants still working on outfitting their spaces.

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

To achieve the project, the municipal government partnered with Quay Property Management — the same developer that owns and operates Lonsdale Quay, which is set to see major renovations over the coming years.

A partnership between the city and developer allows the municipality to retain control and operations of the site’s plaza and public realm, including the operations of the ice rink.

“It is a really special project,” added Oleksiuk. “It has been the brainchild of the city for a long time. The citizens of North Vancouver are ready for this of public infrastructure, and my hope is that this opens up Lonsdale and puts it on the map.”

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

The property has had a storied past, not just for its historical industrial uses but also the numerous public use concepts considered by the municipal government over the past two decades.

The site of The Shipyards was once contemplated as the National Maritime Centre for the Pacific and the Arctic, a significant destination museum that would also provide a new and relocated home for the Vancouver Maritime Museum. But funding challenges killed that plan, leading the city to consider civic uses instead.

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2014 conceptual artistic rendering of The Shipyards Lot 5, with a Ferris wheel at the end of the pier. (Roger Brooks International)

What exists today at The Shipyards is based on the master plan created by Seattle-based Roger Brooks International, a tourism and marketing destination consulting firm the city hired earlier this decade after the museum plan was abandoned.

Brooks’ envisioned uses for the site have largely been fulfilled, apart from a large $20-million Ferris wheel — similar to the Seattle Great Wheel — at the end of the existing pier.

At the same time the museum was being pushed forward, the city also considered a 400-ft-tall, ship-shaped residential tower proposal for The Shipyards’ Lot 8 that included public amenities such as a new home for the Polygon Gallery and a floating public pool in Burrard Inlet at the end of a new pier. The project was overwhelmingly rejected by the city council of the day due to public opposition.

The Shipyards North Vancouver Lonsdale

Opening of The Shipyards on North Vancouver’s Lonsdale waterfront on July 20, 2019. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

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