Coal Harbour is the name of the Burrard Inlet south shoreline section between Stanley Park on the Brockton Peninsula on the west and the Canada Place cruise ship terminal on the east. It is also now the name of the neighbourhood adjacent to the shoreline within the City of Vancouver’s Downtown neighbourhood since its redevelopment for high-rise condominium residents in the 1990s. The Downtown Financial District is to the south beyond West Georgia Street, Burrard Street forms the eastern boundary, the shoreline is on the north, and Stanley Park to the west and north at the opening of the inlet completes the picturesque setting. A landscaped walkway for strolling or jogging lines the entire neighborhood.
Gritty History, Promising Present
The discovery of coal in the harbour in 1862 inspired the name. For many years, this area was mostly industrial, a place for shipyards, a seaplane plant, and a lumber mill. Railroads along the waterfront connected the industrial sites to inland suppliers. Industrial activity diminished after World War II and by the 1980s the area was little more than a wasteland with a railway switchyard its sole activity.
Change came with the reconstruction of Canada Place, originally an old cargo pier, for the Expo ’86 world’s fair. Recognizing the beauty of the harbour area with its views of the North Shore Mountains, Vancouver decided to rebuild the pier as an attractive, unique structure to commemorate the fair festivities. Redevelopment soon followed when in 1990 the City of Vancouver published a development plan to transform the industrial area into a residential waterfront neighborhood. One condition for prospective developers was creation of 2.75 acres of park land for every 1,000 residents. After 1995, new residential high-rise construction accelerated and in 15 years produced an entirely new neighborhood. Coal Harbour is the newest official neighbourhood of the City of Vancouver.
Coal Harbour Residents Association
An indicator of the interests and values of many inhabitants of the new official neighbourhood is the Coal Harbour Residents Association, which registered as a non-profit corporation in 2004 to maintain a high quality of life for its members. The association states its purposes as
Coal Harbour is within walking distance of the entire Downtown area, and for those with not enough time for walking buses and taxis are plentiful. The Seabus, which makes frequent 12-minute crossings of the inlet to North Vancouver, is conveniently available at the nearby SkyTrain Waterfront Station. Skytrain runs to stations in Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Richmond, and Surrey as well as Vancouver, so Coal Harbour local travelers have ready access by transit to all major areas of Metro Vancouver.
The city’s official development plan made a beautifully viable residential neighbourhood from a virtually deserted industrial dump. It has two cooperative housing buildings, market and subsidized housing, and some very high-end addresses. Some say the best way to see Coal Harbour sights is on the walkway, a paved path for pedestrians and bicycles starting at Canada Place. It connects with the seawall along Stanley Park and runs along Coal Harbour’s waterfront. The route has several small parks and can be quite lively near the marina, where there are restaurants and bistros.