The mayor of the city of North Vancouver, Darrell Mussatto, likes to dream big. A few years ago, he openly mused about whether his municipality should spend more than $1 million on a bike lift along part of Lonsdale Avenue. Modelled on a similar bike escalator in Trondheim, Norway, this would have made it easier for cyclists to make the uphill trek from the SeaBus terminal to the Central Lonsdale area.
In a recent interview with the Georgia Straight at his home, Mussatto floated another unusual idea: a Ferris wheel near Lonsdale Quay that could be illuminated at night and seen across the water in Vancouver.
That’s not all. Mussatto talked about turning Shipbuilders’ Square along the waterfront into a year-round regional destination with an outdoor ice rink in winter and a water park for kids in the summer. He also wants TransLink to gussy up North Vancouver’s nearby central transit hub, consisting of a SeaBus terminal and numerous bays for buses.
“We really want to make the entrance to the city through the SeaBus a lot better.” Mussatto said. “[That’s] because we want to set a booth up at the south side, in the Waterfront Station, and say, ‘Come visit North Vancouver.’ ”
For years, City of North Vancouver officials have been touting the conversion of Lower Lonsdale into a regional town centre. Roughly bounded by the SeaBus terminal to the south, Forbes Avenue to the west, St. David's Avenue to the east, and 8th Street to the north, the area is home to approximately 14,000 people.
This densely populated corner of the city includes a variety of restaurants, Lonsdale Quay, a waterfront park, movie theatres, a major transit hub, a summer concert series, and ICBC’s head office. But the city’s hopes of enhancing Lower Lonsdale’s appeal to tourists fizzled somewhat in 2010 when the B.C. government refused to fund a proposed National Maritime Centre on city-owned land.
“Out of the ashes of the National Maritime Centre is this big, vacant site,” Mussatto noted. “The remediation is almost complete.”
Presentation House Gallery hopes to move to the former Cates Tugs building on the waterfront, where Seaspan previously performed maintenance work on tugboats.
Meanwhile, Mussatto said the city has retained Colliers International to lease the historic former Pacific Great Eastern Railway Station at the foot of Lonsdale Avenue to one or more restaurants. The city will control this and the Cates Tugs building on a 50-year lease, said the mayor.
He also noted that the Vancouver Biennale has chosen Lower Lonsdale as one of the spaces in which it will showcase public art next year.
“Lots of great stuff is happening,” Mussatto said.
The Pier development west of St. Georges Avenue includes 1.25 million square feet of commercial, residential, and public-amenity space. In it, Pinnacle International developed a 105-room hotel along with 1,000 apartment and live-work units. According to the city, the company plans to construct three more residential buildings on the waterfront, as well as a public walkway.
In addition, the city is working with municipal, provincial, and federal governments and the Squamish First Nation on the North Shore Spirit Trail. The greenway will enable pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, and in-line skaters to travel unimpeded from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove.
In the future, Mussatto envisions people renting bikes at Lonsdale Quay and cycling along the North Shore Spirit Trail to the Lions Gate Bridge, then crossing over to Stanley Park before riding to Waterfront Station. From there, they would take the SeaBus back to the North Shore.
“Wouldn’t that be a cool loop?” he said.
The city is working with Seattle-based tourism consultant Roger Brooks, who specializes in branding municipalities. On his company’s website, Brooks points out that North American cities are increasingly resembling their European counterparts, with more car-free areas.
One of Brooks’s central points is that downtown parks should be turned into plazas that serve as community gathering places. He also maintains that people want to spend time in their downtown areas after work and well into the evening hours, so these areas shouldn’t shut down at 6 p.m.
According to Brooks, people also want sidewalk cafés, pedestrian-friendly settings, and planned activities in their public plazas.
It’s a message that Mussatto appears to have taken to heart.