A newcomer to the North Shore arriving via the Seabus and looking north up the steep hill that is Lonsdale might be forgiven if they thought they were in San Francisco. The steepness of the street, the wonderful ambience of the old Victorian buildings, the historic waterfront are all reflective of the City by the Bay. The only thing missing is a cable car to take that newcomer up the hill towards even more interesting attractions.
A recent report in the North Shore News revealed that Lonsdale Avenue is one of seven streets across Canada in the running for the 2016 Great Street Award, presented annually by the Canadian Institute of Planners. According to CIP vice-president Lindsay Chase, it’s an opportunity to recognize the contributions of city planners across the country. Streets are judged on several factors including esthetics, walkability, vibrancy, history and commercial activity.
A newcomer to the North Shore might become immediately infatuated by a stroll around Lower Lonsdale, or Lolo as many shopkeepers are calling the district between the waterfront and 4th Street. Exploring this emerging new neighbourhood would take a tourist several hours. As fascinating as Lower Lonsdale is becoming, Lolo is only one of three Lonsdale neighbourhoods, each one completely different. Upper Lonsdale, north of the Upper Levels Highway, is a shopping district mainly for locals. Middle Lonsdale, between 11th and 21st, remains one of the best multicultural shopping and dining neighbourhoods to be found anywhere in Canada.
Middle Lonsdale remains totally free of large corporate shopping malls with the attendant huge outdoor parking lots. While there are some brand names allowed (Starbucks, McDonalds) many stores remain local and independent. Small self-owned restaurants still prevail. Walkability is everywhere, perhaps because this section of the street is not so steep. Street parking is free, numerous coffee shops allow local residents to relax and enjoy their own village, and a vibrant energy can be perceived every where.
Other streets across Canada nominated for the Great Street Award included Rue de Petit Champlain in Quebec City, Main Street in Newmarket, Ontario; Fourth Street in Calgary; and Dock Street in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. New Brunswick has two entrants, with Water Street in St. Andrews and Bridge Street in Sackville both up for the award.
City of North Vancouver deputy director of community development Emilie Adin was quoted in the NS News article saying that several distinctions went into the nomination. They included Lonsdale’s views, proximity to trails, the transformation of The Shipyards, Lonsdale Avenue’s multicultural makeup, and the city’s low per capita carbon emission rate. Obviously “walkability” remains an issue for Lonsdale, given the elevation gain in Lower Lonsdale between 4th and 11th and then in Upper Lonsdale up to 29th, but perhaps the City politicians one day will decide to build our own version of San Francisco’s cable cars to lure even more tourists up Lonsdale, already nominated for greatness.
By staff reporter