Known in Canada as McBarge, it’s been neglected for 25 years and is now frequented by seagulls and homeless people.
Its design was intended to show off futuristic architecture and technology. Now, however, it’s a shadow of what it once was, rusting in the Burrard Inlet in British Columbia among cargo ships and an oil refinery.
Officially named the Friendship 500, the boat was constructed for the 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication in Vancouver. McDonald’s turned it into a restaurant. It did great business during the Expo but failed to cut it as a permanent location. In 1991, the barge was moved to Burrad Inlet where it has sat, rusting away, ever since.
The barge was designed by Robert Allan Ltd. It was the second McDonald’s to be built on a boat, the first being in St. Louis, Missouri.
Before it became the ghost ship of today, it was a classy establishment. Its fancy wooden interiors, potted plants and panoramic views were part of a strategic attempt by McDonald’s to appeal to class-conscious yuppies who were increasingly turning their noses up at fast-food establishments in the 1980s.
Although it’s now a shadow of its former self, there are still attempts being made to salvage the McBarge and bring it back into use. The current owner – developer Howard Meakin – has suggested turning the barge into the centrepiece of a restaurant complex on the Fraser River.
Meakin’s idea for the complex includes several restaurants, a marina, paddlewheeler tours and a float plane service.
Another proposal that has been put forward – but not by the owners – is to use the barge as a homeless shelter to alleviate Vancouver’s serious problem with overcrowding in its temporary homes.