• Downsizing in North Vancouver

    North Vancouver

Downsizing in North Vancouver

Approximately 48,196 people live in North Vancouver. North Vancouver is the home of two municipalities: a compact City facing Burrard Inlet and a larger, suburban–like District surrounding it on three sides. North Vancouver has also been home to such notables as rock star Bryan Adams, sprinter Harry Jerome, broadcaster Red Robinson, actor and Chief of the Burrard Band Dan George, skater Karen Magnussen, Group of Seven painter Fred Varley, writer Malcolm Lowry, actor Jason Priestley, Margaret Sinclair (wife of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau), cartoonist Lynn Johnston, Squamish Chief Joe Capilano, and mountaineer Phyllis Munday.

North Vancouver is situated in one of the most spectacular geographic settings anywhere. The land rises up from the waters of Burrard Inlet through forested slopes to the Coast Mountains. Over the past century and a half, much of the temperate rainforest that originally covered those slopes has been cut, canyons have been bridged, rivers dammed, and mountains traversed by roads. Today's urban community has emerged from a wilderness where once only a handful of First Nation settlements and an isolated logging town hugged the water's edge.

The First People to call North Vancouver home were Coast Salish, the Ancestors of the Tsleil–Waututh, Musqueam, and Squamish peoples. They built permanent winter villages and had fishing camps (and other resource sites) along local shorelines and river mouths, while nearby mountains were used for hunting and spirit questing. Travelling by canoe, they moved between a network of sites on the banks of Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet, Indian Arm, and the mouths of the Capilano and Seymour Rivers. Native peoples, speaking the Squamish language and a down-river dialect of the Halkomelem language, sustained themselves by fishing, hunting, and food–gathering. Slightly over 200 years ago, they had their first glimpse of Europeans. The Spanish arrived first, giving their name to Vancouver's Spanish Banks, and in 1792 Captain George Vancouver of England explored the local shores. Descendents of these First people, members of the Squamish and Tsleil–Waututh Nations, still live and work in our community today.

By the mid 1980s, the face of the central waterfront had been radically altered by the construction of the Seabus Terminal, ICBC Corporate offices, the Lonsdale Quay Market and Hotel and Waterfront Park. Today, the residential and commercial waterfront re-development taking shape on the Shipyards site continues to change the face of North Vancouver.

After two decades in which the fortunes of Lower Lonsdale had declined, the 1970s witnessed the first stirrings of a revitalization that is today being realized. New residential development, most of it in the form of high rise condominiums and townhouses, is bringing with it a massive infusion of economic activity and people, many of them eager to move to North Vancouver because of the recreational activities just minutes from their doorsteps. Hikers, mountain bike enthusiasts, skiers and snow boarders have flocked to the community. Traditional activities such as mountaineering, snow shoeing, hiking, and skiing have been popular in the alpine areas of North Vancouver for decades. In recent years, they have been joined by snow boarding and mountain biking. In fact, some of the world's most challenging mountain bike trails are located in North Vancouver, which is widely recognized as the birthplace of "freeriding".

The 1970s also witnessed the opening of North Vancouver's largest educational institution Capilano College (now Capilano University). Founded in 1968, its scenic 13 hectare campus in the Lynmour area of North Vancouver opened in 1973. Over the years, it has grown steadily and has become known for signature programs in tourism management, jazz studies, and business administration among others. In 2008, it was re-designated a university.

During the 1970s and 80s, the ethnic composition of North Vancouver also began to change substantially. A large influx of new residents from Asia and, in particular, from Iran, has added to the community's diversity. Many new residents found employment in enterprises more in tune with present economic realities than were the old industrial operations of the past. For instance, many North Vancouver companies are in the business of creating and marketing digital content and high technology. The local television and film industry employs 5,000 North Shore residents and has made North Vancouver a hub for Hollywood North. Numerous film and television productions have been shot at North Shore Studios and Mammoth Studios on a site adjacent to Park & Tilford Mall (originally developed in the late 1980s by Lions Gate Studios).

The 1950s and 60s saw suburban growth in North Vancouver, with most new development taking place in the District because of its greater land resources. After the demise of the streetcar system in 1947, and as ownership of private automobiles increased, new subdivisions such as Norgate and Capilano Highlands were developed. The "baby boom" among young families put new pressures on the hospital for maternity and pediatric services, and led to the opening of a new Lions Gate Hospital in 1961.

In the post-war period, Burrard Dry Dock modernized and expanded. It continued to be the community's largest employer. Employees were kept busy with government contracts for naval and coastal ships, as well as the opportunities arising from a diversification of business into general engineering for the growing forest and mining industries.

Infrastructure improvements included the completion of the Cleveland Dam in 1954, the opening of the Second Narrows Bridge in 1960 and the Upper Levels (Trans-Canada) Highway the following year. A new District Hall opened in 1959 (renovated in 1995). In 1977, the Seabus opened and re-connected North Vancouver and Vancouver by ferry. The City built a new municipal hall in 1974 (expanded in 2010) and the jointly funded Harry Jerome Recreation Centre opened in 1966. Main libraries were constructed by the City (1974) and the District (1969; expanded 1974-5), although each was later replaced by new library buildings anchoring civic plazas in 2007 (District) and 2008(City).

The focus of industrial activity on the waterfront moved beyond Lonsdale Avenue and expanded into other areas of marine-focused economic activity in the 1950s and 60s. North Vancouver's White Pass and Yukon Corporation developed a ship-rail-truck transportation system in the 1950s that led to a global innovation in transportation: cargo containerization. The construction of the Saskatchewan Grain Elevator (1956-66) led to a rebuilding of the old Low Level Road and paved the way for the development of Neptune Terminals. The lumber and shingle mills and log booms that had dominated North Vancouver's waterfront were, by the 1960s, replaced by new docks, grain elevators and bulk loading terminals handling potash, fertilizers and coal. Even today, viewed from Vancouver, the piles of bright yellow sulphur on the waterfront at Vancouver Wharves is one of North Vancouver's most recognizable land marks.

h Vancouver has changed dramatically over the past century and a half. The mountain backdrop remains the same and the old town sites of Lynn Valley, Deep Cove, Lower Lonsdale, and the First Nations communities on the water remind us of the past. But in most ways, North Vancouver is now a very different place than it used to be. Until the 1970s and 80s, North Vancouver was a mostly working-class community with employment opportunities that centered on logging, at first, and later on shipbuilding and related maritime industries. The residents tended to stay put, the pace of change was slow, and most people had deep roots in the community. In recent years, the workforce has changed and many North Vancouverites participate in the "knowledge economy". Residents, by and large, are also older, better educated, wealthier, more itinerant, and much more diverse than in earlier years. Yet, old-timers and newcomers alike probably agree that North Vancouver today - home to about 140,000 people - is one of Canada's most vibrant and livable communities.

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