Saturday, June 19, 2021

Staycation #3 City of North Vancouver-Seaside Hotel


If you haven't been to the City of North Vancouver waterfront for a while, you should head on over. There have been some remarkable changes in recent years as the 2014 waterfront master plan  https://fraseropolis.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/lower-lonsdale-waterfront-plan-2014.pdf is being realized. Much of the credit must go to former Mayor Darrell Mussato, former planners Richard White, Gary Penway, Emilie Adin, and no doubt many others. (Gary Penway tells me that Heather Reinhold is one of the people who also deserves credit and recognition.)

While West Vancouver awaits its first new waterfront hotel, the City of North Vancouver has two relatively new hotels on the central waterfront at the foot of Lonsdale Avenue. While some of you are no doubt familiar with the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier, I suspect you have never heard of, or most certainly haven't stayed at Seaside, the North Shore's newest 71 room boutique hotel designed by Oregon's ZGF architects & Dialog, which opened in October 2019, just in time for a pandemic.  https://seasidehotelvancouver.com/

It was developed by Gary Mathieson , President of Quay Property Management Inc who for the past 27 years has owned and managed the Lonsdale Quay Public Market and the Lonsdale Quay Hotel https://www.lonsdalequayhotel.com/ which I venture to guess is a property you don't often think about. It is managed by The Executive Group, a Vancouver-based hotel branding, management, and development company. (You may recall they are also associated with the property we stayed at for Staycation #2)

Once the Wallace Shipyards, the area has been redeveloped with new waterfront walks, shops, restaurants, the Polygon Gallery, and other public spaces including some great water features. 

On a weekend afternoon, it is absolutely delightful, and other than Granville Island, (and perhaps the Olympic Village) there really isn't anything quite like it in Vancouver. Indeed, while many of us are proud of Vancouver's continuous and beautiful waterfront walkway and bikeway system, when you think about it, and compare it with Singapore or many other Asian or European waterfronts, it really is quite sterile. I mean, while there are a couple of restaurants in Coal Harbour and around False Creek, it's hard to find the level of activity found along most other waterfronts. (eg. How many ice cream vendors are there? other pop-up retailers?)

The North Vancouver central waterfront is a great place to visit, or preferably spend a night or two. For one thing, you can be there in 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver since it is adjacent to the SeaBus terminal. You don't need to take your car, and you probably shouldn't since it costs $32 to park overnight! (Although if you want, you can drop off your luggage and park further away and walk.)

There are many nearby restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention Happy Hour. I must mention Happy Hour since from Wednesday to Sunday, the Seaside Hotel offers $1 shucked oysters ($2 for premium Kusshi) an excellent spicy tuna on fried seaweed and other creative appetizers, along with very reasonably priced (and surprisingly good) wines. 

For dinner we couldn't decide between the hotel restaurants, one of the restaurants in Lonsdale Quay, the very attractive Pier 7, or a restaurant along Lonsdale. We chose the latter and ate at Fishworks Seafood restaurant  https://www.fishworks.ca/. I first went there years ago for lunch with Emilie Adin, the City's former Director of Community Services, (to make amends for criticizing aspects of the City's housing policy including excessive minimum suite sizes!) I remembered it to be very good then, and it is still very good. 

I couldn't decide between the bouillabaisse or paella, and chose the latter. It was so good, I will head back soon for some of the other dishes. Prices are very reasonable for the quality.

Unfortunately the Seaside restaurant was not open for breakfast but it didn't matter. There is a beautiful Artigiano's overlooking the waterfront, but we went over to the Pinnacle Hotel for eggs benedict and an omelet. While the restaurant was almost empty, the food was very good, as was the service. (After all, for a while we were the only ones there!)

While I could go on about all the things I discovered, I will conclude with just a few thoughts. It has been many years since I visited the Lonsdale Quay Public Market. If I recall correctly, it was developed by my old friend John Evans while working with Intrawest and opened in 1986. https://vancouversbestplaces.com/north-shore/north-vancouver/lonsdale-quay/lonsdale-quay-public-market/  I expected it to look tired, but was completely wrong. It has been substantially renovated since I was last there, and I found many of the shops most delightful. For those of you who miss Dunbar's Cheshire Cheese's steak and kidney pie, there is still a Cheshire Cheese there serving a steak and kidney pie!

I must also comment on the Seaside Hotel. While I think the registration lobby needs to be reconsidered, (since there really isn't a registration lobby, just an area I assumed to be a small shop), the hotel is very, very well done. 

The interior design is most unusual, but attractive. While I often despise hotel carpets (somewhere out there is someone who designs all the world's awful hotel carpets and should be stopped), these carpets are interesting and good. Natural wood is used as a feature along the hallways and within the rooms, in addition to some creative wall coverings. I liked the overall look very much.

Sally found many of the features in our room to be reminiscent of many high-end European boutique hotels. While compact, especially compared to the suites we have been staying in, it was beautifully appointed with sheer and black-out blinds operated by a switch. (It took me a few minutes to find the switches; they're by the front door) and lots of electronic gear including a desk top tablet, plug-ins, bedside light switches, even a useful night reading light (which I will now install at home). My only complaints were the large sliding door on the bathroom that was hard to keep closed, the very fashionable desk chair that wasn't as comfortable as a more conventional and adjustable desk chair (but it looked great!) and a thermostat that I couldn't figure out how to use. I could have phoned the front desk, or looked for instructions, but didn't.

Because there are so few tourists coming to Vancouver, the hotel rates in most Vancouver area hotels are an unbelievable deal at the moment. (Just check out rates at The Exchange and other top quality hotels) The standard room rate at Seaside for Sunday night was only $149 plus taxes and I felt guilty paying so little. 

So to conclude, Covid-19 will be with us for a while. The Americans are not coming, at least not yet. So pack an overnight bag, take transit down to the SeaBus and go and stay for a night, or two. If available, the corner rooms with two windows are very good, and there's a suite that I didn't see but is probably wonderful. I recommend a water view room if available, although as an architect, (who lives on the water) I sometimes prefer a city view so I can study the surrounding buildings!

If you don't want to do this, at least head over for a tour of the award-winning Polygon Gallery and Happy Hour at Seaside, or one of the other nearby restaurants. I can guarantee you'll thank me for the suggestion. And congratulations to all who have been involved with the transformation of the North Vancouver City waterfront. It's very well done. A perfect spot for a Staycation!



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