Grant Street Pier is now floating above the water

Designed to look like a sailboat, the feature makes a statement at Waterfront Vancouver

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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Envisioned to look like a sailboat, the Grant Street Pier finally sails above the Columbia River in downtown Vancouver.

Suspended by steel cables and anchored deep into the shore, the new public pier now extends 90 feet over the water between the Interstate 5 Bridge and the BNSF Railway bridge downstream. Construction workers pulled out the last of its support pilings earlier this week.

“It’s a major milestone because you can really see its grandeur, the vision of this pier,” said Terry Snyder, who manages the city’s projects on the waterfront.

Internationally known artist Larry Kirkland designed the pier with both form and function in mind. Permanent beams would disrupt the river too much, so his design channeled a ship to hang a V-shaped walkway from a 75-foot mast.

“It was just a suggestion in a meeting that I said I bet you could hold this up with a mast and get rid of the pilings,” Kirkland said. “Nobody wanted those.”

When asked how closely the nearly finished pier matched his vision, Kirkland said “I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to walk out there.”

The pier and two restaurant buildings along the shore at its sides are expected to open in July.

Kirkland, who is based in Washington D.C., flew in and visited the pier on Wednesday when the sky was a monochromatic gray. He said he realized how the pier will change with the weather.

“Against a blue sky it’s going to feel very different,” he said. “I think that’s the nice thing about it: as a static thing, it’s going to change as the sky around it changes.”

Crews now will turn their attention to building a 3,800-square-foot plaza that ties together the pier and the buildings. Made of concrete and basalt pavers, the plaza will include bench seating and plants.

The pier still needs to be illuminated, per the designs of industrial designer Charles Stone. Stone’s most famous work is the “Tribute in Light” beams at the former World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Snyder said electrical work is usually done near the end of a project.

Crews broke ground on the pier July 2016 and Snyder said it has been mostly smooth sailing. Some work was delayed after storms last winter led the river to reach its highest water levels in decades.

The pier is the centerpiece of the city of Vancouver’s investment in The Waterfront Vancouver. The city expects to spend $30 million on the pier, the plaza and a 7.3-acre park along the river.

Private developers are expected to invest $1.5 billion into the 21-block waterfront development, stretching over 30 acres of the former Boise Cascade paper mill. In addition to the restaurants, two other buildings are under construction.