NANAIMO — The City of Nanaimo is working on a lease deal with a group hoping to build a year-round market in Beban Park.
Council has directed staff to get down to the business of working out an agreement with the Island Roots Market Co-op (IRMC) to support their plans to construct a $2 million permanent market to feature local food producers, artisans and crafters.
"Nanaimo needs a community gathering place. A place where people can come together, can learn about local food and build together a local food culture," IRMC president Larry Whaley told NanaimoNewsNOW.
"There's a tremendous amount of support for local farmers and food sustainability in the community but there's not a core operation to bring it all together."
The market would feature five anchor tenants, including a baker, butcher and green grocer. Seasonal and specialty vendors would join the market twice a week to create a larger farmers' market feel. A report from the IRMC estimated anywhere from 30 vendors in the winter to 90 in the summer.
Both indoor and covered outdoor facilities are part of the plan.
Whaley said he's sensing "pretty solid" support for the concept from vendors and consumers.
"The feeling is we need to continue this movement and get people involved and create a real local food culture and help the movement grow."
The IRMC report referenced several municipal priorities which would be fulfilled by their proposed market. According to the document submitted to council, a Regional District of Nanaimo plan from 2012 identified a year-round market as a priority step to prop up the local agriculture and aquaculture economy.
Whaley said it also addresses another major local issue, which is creating a sustainable food system.
"Some sort of a problem that could cut us off from the mainland and we'd be out of food in a matter of two or three days. It's pretty important to build the local food movement and rebuild local agriculture and local food," Whaley said.
IRMC is counting on substantial financial support from various channels to make the vision a reality. Whaley said fundraising within the community will be critical. Grants, vendor fees and a mortgage will cover the rest of the cost.
The year-round market concept is part of a larger vision for redevelopment of the area in Beban Park between the playing fields and golf course. That broad plan, involving groups like the VIEX, was approved in principle by council in October 2016.
A City report said feedback at an open house on the proposal was largely positive. Redevelopment of Beban Park was one of this council's five priority projects.
The City will also work with IRMC to offer tax receipts for donations to the project, something Whaley said will be a big boost.
The current Island Roots market opened for the summer season in Beban Park on May 13. It runs Wednesday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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