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Granville Island

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All about Granville Island

Granville Island is a peninsula and main tourist attraction of Greater Vancouver. Right underneath the Granville Street Bridge that hovers over the land, is a small dense community with its own public farmers market and shopping districts. Also on Granville Island are several performing arts theatres and craft stores. However, Granville Island was once a booming industrial sector, making industrial machinery for the war effort overseas in the 1950’s. The area is considered very unique and holds the Granville Island Brewing Company, which offers sample tours and tastings of its beer and factory. In 2004, Granville Island was awarded by the group, Project for Public Spaces as one of “The World’s Greatest Places”.

History of Granville Island

Granville Island was once originally a sandbar in the middle of the False Creek, holding original wooden Granville Street Bridge. The sandbar that would become Granville Island was mapped first by Captain George Henry Richards in an expedition to the area in 1859. In 1889, after the original Granville Street Bridge was completed, the sandbar was planned to be shaped into an actual island to make space for real estate. However, the federal government, who owned the piece of land at the time, had halted the operation.

In 1915, with the Port of Vancouver expanding, the Vancouver Harbour Commission approved a project for Granville Island to be built. Approximately, 1 million cubic yards of land was filled to create an island under the Granville Street Bridge. Due to the original intent of building the island, it was called Industrial Island. However that name had never caught on and was named Granville Island.

By 1923, most of the land on Granville Island was occupied for Industrial use. The very first tenants of the island were newer, secondary industries serving the natural resources and construction sectors. By 1930, about 1,200 workers were working on the island, mostly transporting by streetcar and descending to the island from the stairs above on the Granville Street Bridge. This flight of stairs was one of the very few accessible routes to Granville Island.

The Depression saw several industrial industries in Greater Vancouver shut down operations. However, due to the lobbying by industries on Granville Island, they managed to survive and maintain operational by receiving lower rent for their properties. Civil taxes on industries were also excluded due to the island being owned by the federal government. The Granville Island industries were considered so vital to the war effort in 1942 that the overseers of the industrial properties had no choice but to lower these expenses. The area was considered so important after the bombing of Pearl Harbour that workers of the industries on Granville Island were given special identification cards to prevent others from sabotaging the area.

After the postwar period, due to the decline of demand overseas for war related industrial items, so did the demand for these industries on Granville Island. At this point in time, the area was becoming a firetrap as these declining industries were turning oily and unclean. Factories had also often dumped their waste into the surrounding waters causing a pollution problem. However, as overseers of these properties had decided to lower their rents, these declining industries kept holding on to their properties. These older, declining industries were often left abandoned and were causes of several fires on the island. As business declined and the railways in the area were replaced with trucks, the demand for the redevelopment of Granville Island was growing. The area was becoming very crowded which led to the idea for redevelopment was to fill the surrounding waters of False Creek and turn Granville Island into a piece of actual land. However, a hefty 50 million dollar budget for the redevelopment plan had altered the land, instead turning Granville Island into a peninsula. These plans included the replacement of the wooden Granville Street Bridge with the newer eight lane bridge.

In the 1970’s the area was redeveloped by the federal government into a family-friendly place, with several uses, from parking to exhibition space. The industrial land was starting to be replaced with art stores, marketplaces, restaurants and theatre companies. The area still has some industrial companies from the industrial times on the island.

Geography of Granville Island

Granville Island is a peninsula located in the middle of False Creek between Downtown Vancouver and the False Creek Community. Granville Island holds the middle weight of the Granville Street Bridge which hovers over the area. Granville Island is mostly surrounded by water and has very few assessable routes to the area.