May 5, 2016

The Shipyards: ” … some of the best public space in Metro”

Tony Valente brings PT up-to-date on the Shipyards development that’s transforming Lower Lonsdale and the North Van waterfront.


I have been living on the North Shore for years and, yes, I know about the perceptions from those in the ‘real’ Vancouver.

When we moved to the North Shore from UBC Campus in late 2008, we went for drinks with my MBA classmates only to realize it was a going-away party. “You are moving to the North Shore,” they told me, “and we won’t see you again!”  Fast forward to the future and some of those friends are turning up at the growing Friday Night Markets already being held just east of Lonsdale in the up-and-coming Shipyards district. The Night Markets have been have been gaining momentum for years, and sooner or later it was bound to happen that those friends would be coming over the water in my direction.

Well, its just about to get better:  North Shore residents and City of North Vancouver citizens were shown what will happen on Lot 5 – the much-talked-about piece of dirt between Lonsdale and St. Georges and just south of Esplanade.

Since playing a crucial role in Canada’s war effort by producing supply ships and later falling in to ruin, Lot 5 had been slated to host the National Maritime Centre until the Federal Government pulled the plug in 2009. After that it fell in to a seemingly endless period of limbo. During this period it has served as volleyball courts and a veritable “Field of Dreams” for those of us who wanted to dream. A group I am proud to have been a part of, the North Van Urban Forum, held a series of events which culminated in a Design Jam finale back in 2012.  .

The City of North Vancouver together with Quay Property Management will develop and manage the site which will feature:

  • an outdoor public skating rink for use during the winter months, including a looped skating trail to complement the open rink area.
  • a water play zone for use during the summer months, with a combination of pools and sprayers
  • a covering for weather protection over the entire open space, complete with a retractable portion to allow for an open water play area in the summer
  • significant heritage elements incorporated into the site development such as the use of the Machine Shop building as the covering structure over the open space
  • enhanced public stage
  • underground parking (120 underground parking stalls. Did we really need these so close to the North Shore’s major transportation hub?)
  • a commercial component, which will include restaurant, retail and proposed hotel use (hotel use will require rezoning)
  • public support spaces, including public washrooms and unique community programming opportunities for both small and large events
  • rubberized and non-skid surfaces, ample seating and viewing areas
  • connection with the Spirit Trail and multiple access points for multi-modal transportation
  • heritage elements and features

Not mentioned, but also a potentially exciting addition is a pedestrian bridge linking Esplanade with the second floor restaurant in the hotel / restaurant commercial building.

The visuals are impressive and promise to create some of the best public space in Metro Vancouver.


Quay 2


For more information, go here.


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  1. Very cool! Having worked in this site for the City of North Van a few years ago, I am thrilled to see this important and rare space transformed into a fittingly low rise (!!) and historically appropriate way.

  2. Love the Shipyards!! Great job Frank D and the numerous team members. It and New West’s Riverfront park are my favourite evolving public spaces in the Lower Mainland. My only comment is more colour and use of interesting paving materials. I’m biased but take a look at Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter for recalling the past and adding bold new design features and colour side by side:

  3. We attended a wedding reception last year at the Pinnacle that overlooks this site and I remember admiring the old marine industrial character and the fact the public had great access to the water.


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