By MAGGIE M, Editor, Publisher, Wedgee-in-Chief, theWedge.LIVE
Is there any place like Granville Island in North America? I think not.
Life under the Granville Street Bridge on Granville Island, Vancouver, bristles with creativity and culture. It’s a departure from the squalor below many urban bridges in the Western world. Charming shops, galleries, artists in studio, eateries and the unexpected blossom under its shadow.
The bridge’s towering presence adds a counter-intuitive visual experience over the island. It feels a like a mothership so-to-speak.
Beyond the bridge, Granville Island reveals a melting pot of cultures, architectural form and life on the water. Its structures are thoughtful in their use of space, colour and repurposed material. The end result is a smidge bohemian, but fresh.
A gated community of houseboats adds an unexpected twist to this CMHC managed land. Tourists gawk and take selfies, but people actually live here. They water their gardens and lounge on their floating walkways resigned to the millions who pass through.
They now have a Council to run the island and expedite change and progress with one seat held by the CMHC. Granville Island is not fading away. It is still the “go-to” stop, “where the world meets the world.” (My driver, Albert, gave me that mantra.)
The juxtaposition of towers, cranes, is an odd contrast to island form. The twisted architecture of the Vancouver House looms in many photos. It is impressive to behold (see photo above.) Apparently it has structural issues, but I trust they will overcome. It is the most unusual and striking building in Vancouver–another must see.
Skipping Granville Island in Vancouver would be like visiting Italy and missing Venice or Rome. This place has undeniable magnetism.
I’ve been here before many years ago but with different eyes. I was running from one venue to the next in a corporate mindset. Now, my eyes caught what I missed.
How did I miss a concrete business in the middle of the island’s glory? My head was clearly down, focused on tasks. Its four active cement silos also function as street art, gargantuan characters overseeing the island and water travelers. Even its cement trucks are decked out. One is painted as a strawberry, another, asparagus.
Wait for it, Ocean, as the company is branded was the first tenant in 1917 on this patch of land dredged from False Creek. In the 70s the island’s transformation accelerated to free much needed space for its neighbours, now numbering over three hundred businesses. This is the genesis of Granville Island dating back 104 years today.
The island offers an abundance of quality and exotic food choices counting approximately seventy seven including kiosks and restaurants. The Public Market is the most popular haunt under one roof with endless choices from purveyors of pickles, through artisan bakers to chocolatiers. Mexican, Sushi, Thai, Chinese, lox and bagels, vegan, lobster, name your craving. Locate a table inside or outside on ocean’s edge and consume the view. People from all corners of the world are there–up to one million each year.
And in November, Vancouver is notoriously balmy and thus busy.