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'Vendor pods' among City of North Van's planned $1.7M in Shipyards upgrades

New handwashing and drinking water stations, improved lighting, pier improvements and other amenities are coming, with work to start this spring
Shipyards Skating web
Skaters enjoy the Shipyards Commons skating rink, Dec. 13, 2021.

It may already be the new darling of the North Shore tourism scene but the City of North Vancouver’s Shipyards is about to get a $1.7-million glow-up.

The provincial Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport announced Friday (Feb. 4) $1 million in grant funding aimed at adding amenities and making the public destination more functional and appealing during otherwise quiet times of the year.

By most accounts, the Shipyards has been a smash since it opened in 2019, but in that time, staff have found room for improvement, said Robert Skene, director of community engagement for the city.

“The biggest thing is we're trying to operate the site year round. The shoulder seasons are a little bit difficult – when we don't have the skate plaza or the splash park on. We do have a lot of rain and darker weather,” he said.  “The idea is to increase the animations throughout the site.”

Money from the grant will go toward adding new handwashing and drinking water stations (something that didn’t become a priority until the pandemic), wider electrical distribution so vendors and events won’t be so reliant on generators, improvements to the district’s lighting, infrastructure upgrades to the Burrard Dry Dock Pier to allow larger ships to dock, new wayfinding signs and banners, new multi-stream zero-waste containers, and improved traffic control.

Most notable to the public, though, will likely be four new mobile “vendor pods,” which the city will lease out to artisans and service providers of various kinds.

The city hasn’t yet decided what the covered pods will look like but staff will carefully curate the types of vendors and service providers who can lease the pods to ensure they’re in keeping with the overall something-for-everyone goal of the Shipyards, Skene said.

“One week could be all about stained glass. The next week could be about metal wares, and there's an opportunity for the artist to be there and selling their wares and potentially even doing some of their art there,” he said. “We could potentially have a microbrewery festival and we can have four different microbreweries selling beer out of them.”

The cash comes from a $41.3-million fund the province set up to help the tourism industry rebound from the economically devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Mayor Buchanan welcomed the funding.

“The Shipyards is a vibrant outdoor space that all people have enjoyed, especially over the course of this pandemic,” she said in a release. “Our waterfront is of great historical and economic importance to our city. With this grant in hand, we will be able to deliver infrastructure and heritage upgrades that will enhance the space for residents while attracting visitors from across the region and beyond. These improvements will also support our local businesses with their recovery efforts.”

The city has already set aside $500,000 for its share of the improvements. Another $200,000 to complete the work will be part of budget discussions happening later this month. Work on the improvements is expected to start later this spring and wrap in 2023.