Canada’s newest marina, Milltown Marina, sits on the outskirts of downtown Vancouver, B.C. in a well-protected basin on the North Arm of the Frasier River.
The marina’s story is not that different from other Greenfield projects, and it’s actually the commonalities that it shares with other projects that makes it an interesting case study. Milltown started out the way many new marina projects do with a vision for the site, then a concept design and finally a layout for the docks followed by an issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP).
Like a growing number of Greenfield marina projects, the response to the RFP is where the Milltown project deviated from its original course. The original plan was to get bids from dock builders to supply the docks that when assembled in the water by a general contractor would make up the configuration shown in the original drawing. The anchoring system would be supplied and installed by a third party and the utilities and accessory packages would be handled separately. This approach was designed to cut out any middlemen and avoid extra markups. In theory, the concept makes sense. The problem is that the modern marina is a complex web of interconnected systems that is most often best approached as a single system by a marina builder who specializes in the design/build of marina systems and who can take advantage of economies of scale. This is where the real savings happens.
Looking at Bellingham Marine’s many different projects across the globe, gives unique insight into the worldwide trends in marina design. The company’s clients are diverse and offer a great cross section of the industry – from commercial fishing facilities in Alaska’s remote reaches to the sophisticated super yacht facilities that dot the Caribbean.
A trend that continues to grow in direct correlation with increasing boat size is the general design and layout of the marina. Bigger boats require longer and wider berths, larger fairways and deeper basins. Many also want higher freeboard and wider walkways. Larger boats require more power and often more services. This trend is nothing new for the marina industry and continues to be the driving force behind many marina renovations.
In addition to the increase in average boat size, is the increase in mix of boats. More and more marinas are being asked to cater to a broader range of boaters, which encompasses everyone from kayakers to mega yacht owners. With growth in vessel diversity comes the need to offer a greater variety of moorage and water access options. Where once standard 16” to 20” freeboard was appropriate for all boats in the marina, marinas are now looking to incorporate into their facility low freeboard areas for kayakers, rowing clubs and junior sailing programs, “standard” freeboard for mid-sized boats, and extra high freeboard docks for larger vessels.
Another trend that’s on the rise is customization. Many marinas are looking to set themselves apart and create a unique experience for their tenants. Modern marina designs reflect playful use of architectural design and color that lead to a sophisticated and polished look.