If the City of North Vancouver’s mayor gets his way, the community’s waterfront could someday be home to a branch of the Vancouver Aquarium, where visitors can tour tanks filled with marine life and learn about the workings of the ocean.
“The aquarium is one of the top draws in the Lower Mainland, if not THE top draw,” said Mayor Darrell Mussatto, speaking to the North Shore News Thursday. “I thought: ‘Wouldn’t that be a neat, interesting fit over here.’”
Mussatto floated the idea publicly for the first time at a Monday council meeting, saying that he had “had discussions with the Vancouver Aquarium” and that the popular tourist attraction was “very interested in having a satellite location” on this side of the Burrard Inlet. The idea was one among several discussed at the meeting in relation to the future of the central waterfront site at the base of Lonsdale Avenue, which has been in search of an attraction since funding for a proposed National Maritime Centre fell through in early 2010.
On Thursday, Mussatto said he originally raised it with Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale right after the NMC plan was scrapped. He spoke with Nightingale again last week, he said, and planned to meet once more on Friday.
“He was quite intrigued by it,” said Mussatto. “He thought it might be a great opportunity for the aquarium.”
Nightingale confirmed through a spokeswoman that the conversations had taken place, but said nothing was concrete at this point.
Mussatto would like to see a relatively modest education-oriented facility of about 10,000 to 15,000 square feet that would feature fish and other marine life but not dolphins or other controversial exhibits, he said. It might even be possible to create something that would mesh with a previously proposed satellite campus for Capilano University.
The mayor acknowledged that cost would be an issue, but said it might be possible to complete the project with relatively little investment from the city.
“My early understanding is the Vancouver Aquarium may bring some assets with them, so they may only need a parcel of land to lease or to use,” he said. “ If they’re able to bring some construction dollars, that goes a long way in helping out.”
To date discussions have been “very informal,” according to Mussatto, but he hopes his Friday meeting will lead to something more solid to put before council.
Follow us on Twitter: @NorthShoreNews