Experiencing the ongoing transformation of the Vancouver Waterfront is like viewing a fast motion video of an emerging butterfly from an old and tattered cocoon. Every time I visit (every other week or so) it seems that something new has been built, existing areas have been improved and beautified, and new shops and residents open for business.

Walking towards the Grant Street Pier at Waterfront Park in Vancouver, Wa

History of Vancouver Waterfront Park

Public Art at the Park

Things to Do

Play a Waterfront Jigsaw Puzzle

Send a Waterfront Ecard to a friend

The park is a 32-acre development opened in September 2018 for a cost of $1.5 billion dollars. Definitely more than pocket change but it is slowly turning Vancouver, the often neglected portion of the Portland/Vancouver metro into a breathtaking twirling, dancing and sparkling star player. Way to go Vancouver!

Brief History of Vancouver Waterfront

The waterfront was first occupied by the Chinook Nation. These early Native Americans were known for being expert traders, fishermen and highly skilled canoe makers.

When the Hudson Bay Company set up a post here under John McLaughlin relations between Native Americans and Whites was quite fair. The ground work that McLaughlin and the Hudson Bay Company set for this area was good in many, many respects but even that resulted in wide scale of drastically slaughtering wildlife for furs.

Sadly to say a lot of the abuse against Indians in the Pacific Northwest increased when the U.S. Army presence here entered the picture.

I am a military person myself (4 years in the Navy and a couple as a reservist) and very pro military actually . . . but . . . aggression is not a good thing. For so many years the Army’s “official orders” to keep peace resulted in doing that for a white advantage not an Indian one.

I am growing to love Vancouver more each day as I read books, google extensively and explore the city . . . but it does have its dark side.

map of waterfront
User:Nikater, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 In 1889 a lumber Mill was built called Michigan Mill. From the late 1940s the area was a paper mill that operated under various owners until 1969 when it was purchased by Boise Cascade.

Vancouver Waterfront Park Development

The waterfront area was purchased by the Columbia Waterfront LLC in 2008.

A partnership between the City of Vancouver, Columbia Waterfront LLC and Gramor Development has now become a testimony of the power of possibility when public and private partners work together.

opening image of Web cam of Waterfront construction
A webcam located on site is updated every 15 minutes. It also has a 30 second option to view the entire project from May 13, 2015 to the present which I found fascinating.

A master plan was created and approved by the city in 2009. The underlying ground work went on for years with little visible progress observed until 2014 and 2015 when new street connections were built for access to the development.

Over the next several years local Vancouverites would take walks and drive bys to see the abandoned lots, grass plots and old industrial buildings torn down and replaced.

Finally at last in September 2018 the park was officially opened to the public and since then has rapidly become an extremely popular destination for locals and visitors alike.

Check out this 44 page pdf with stunning images and detailed information about the Waterfront Development as well as a brief history of Vancouver from the Waterfront project.

This amazing Cinderella story continues to enfold with each new piece of the project adding more richness and enjoyment for all who visit.

Public Art at Vancouver Waterfront Park

Entering the park from the city one can view three artistic points of the park.

public art at Waterfront park
3 Major Public Art pieces at Vancouver Wa – Waterfront Park

The Wind and Art

This art piece was publicly introduced to the park in February, 2020. It is a colorful stainless steel metalwork that was designed by husband-wife artists Dave Frei and Jennifer Corio of Cobalt Designworks, a Vancouver-based studio.

Headwaters Wall at Vancouver Waterfront Park

Headwaters Wall at Waterfront Park in Vancouver, Wa

The Headwaters is a Larry Kirkland Project that reveals the history of the Columbia River from prehistoric times to the present. The text on the wall written by Teresa Jordan is the most inspirational capsule of history, science, geography and nature I think I have ever read. I can read it over and over and each time feel that I have only dipped into the beauty, power and depth of it’s message. You can read it here.

Grant Street Pier

Grant Street Pier
Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reaching up into the Vancouver sky Larry Kirkland’s – the Grant Street Pier is a massive art work that cost upwards of 12 million and took almost two years to complete. Take a look at the amazing pictures that detail the planning, difficulties and the amazing workmanship it took to complete this project.

The massive cable stay structure is suspended 90 feet over the Columbia River and features a 75 foot tall beam intended to mirror the mast of a passing sailboat.

Public Art Services – Larry Kirkland 2018

Things to Do at Vancouver Waterfront Park

Gathering place to meet up with friends
Eat at restaurants
Enjoy wine tasting and brews
Walk along the river
Visit shops (more opening all the time)
Outdoor Concerts in the summertime
Open lawn for kids to run and play
Enjoy a picnic on the lawn or at various seating places

Okay – I am going to go easy on this section for now . . . because Visit Vancouver USA really does an awesome job of keeping up to date on things and I think my attempt will be rather pathetic. We have eaten once at Wild Fin and twice at Twigs Bistro (both super nice places for a special celebrations). My vote of the two is for Twigs Bistro so far. Wild Fin was super elegant but I liked the food better at Twigs though of course one can’t really judge from one visit.

In time we will definitely try out Barlow’s Public House and Maryhill’s Winery tasting room and I will give an update on that.

More to Come!

There is still a lot of the park under construction and more venues are in line to open over the next few years. Visit Vancouver USA has a timeline that gives a glimpse of future openings and events.

What I am really, really looking forward to will be the Public Market with a planned opening for 2022. I don’t know that this is a “concrete definitely going to happen” project but that certainly gets my vote! In the meantime there is the Vancouver Night Market at Warehouse 23 (closed for Covid now) but I have had a booth there several times in the past and it was fun and pretty well attended.

Will be writing more on the Waterfront over time as it is one of the upcoming BIG attractions for visiting and living in Vancouver USA! Would love to hear any comments you have about the Waterfront both positive and negative. 🙂

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