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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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. 🙂