A world-class ocean discovery centre on Nanaimo’s waterfront won’t happen anytime soon.
The Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association issued a press release Thursday, advising that due to the “current economic landscape” and government funding realities, its volunteer group has decided to step back from trying to advance the OceanEXP Centre for Ocean Exploration project.
“Although disappointed we are not discouraged. Our vision to bring a world-class iconic facility that promotes ocean exploration and education remains, as does our passion to champion this initiative in Nanaimo,” said Bill Nadeau, board chairman, in the release. “However, after seven years of committed efforts, our volunteer group needs to step back and give time for our provincial partners to reassess how our proposal can support their strategies to re-ignite the economy.”
Nadeau, speaking with the News Bulletin, said the association had been pursuing Phase 2 funding which would have included architectural drawings and covered an executive director position to work on administrative requirements and lead a capital funding campaign.
He said the project’s most recent feasibility study suggested the centre could be successful and a game-changer for Nanaimo’s downtown.
“It said that our facility was the kind of venue that would attract other similar venues…” Nadeau said. “Absolutely it would draw people in, but more importantly, it would draw other development venues that would be essential in developing that downtown core.”
The association, in the release, expressed thanks for “overwhelming” support it received from the City of Nanaimo, Snuneymuxw First Nation and others, as well as volunteers and Nanaimo residents who “stood behind the project.”
Nadeau said although the small board is stepping back, its members continue to believe that a venue like OceanEXP is needed in Nanaimo “more than ever.”
The project website puts the centre’s approximate cost at $50 million, which it said would need to include federal and provincial contributions as well as private and corporate contributions.
The City of Nanaimo, in 2018, gave the association $65,000 for an economic feasibility study.