VIEX dusts off plans for agriplex at Nanaimo’s Beban Park

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island Exhibition is looking at design changes and options for new agricultural complex.

The Vancouver Island Exhibition is rethinking plans for a $1.8-million agriplex.

The VIEX and its new building committee are looking at design changes and options for an agricultural complex on the heels of an updated Beban Park Master Plan.

It’s been three years since Nanaimo city council hit pause on the organization’s agriplex dream and launched into a master plan process for its 53-hectare recreational park. While the park vision now includes a multi-purpose complex, VIEX isn’t ready to break out hammers, according to Stephen Kass, VIEX spokesman and manager of fair operations, who said things are more up in the air than in 2011.

The organization had pitched a heated basic-shell design for a multi-purpose building in 2011 and 2012, to replace four aging barns on the fairgrounds. It also asked the city for a long-term lease and up to $300,000 toward its total cost.

Now it is taking a close look at what makes sense for an agricultural centre and its users and whether it can look at a better all-around facility.

“We’re extremely happy because now we kind of see our potential to move to the next phase, but it might be a completely different design … and I think something that’s going to be more useful,” said Kass, who adds it will probably cost more and the city likely won’t contribute as much as originally proposed because of changing economics.

The new agriplex is planned for Beban’s exhibition park, which the new master plan shows could be transformed into the heart of the recreation campus with permanent vendors, food trucks and buskers. The Nanaimo Community Gardens Society has just won approval to put greenhouses on the grounds as well.

Ian Thorpe, city councillor and chairman of the parks and recreation commission, sees potential on the site and hopes the VIEX comes up with a proposal. He shares its wish of a multi-purpose, covered space and said it’s an initiative he believes the commission and, likely council, would support.

The building committee still has tasks ahead, including negotiating a lease, looking for money for a more detailed feasibility study and development plans.

“We know we have to take some preliminary steps to get the ball rolling again,” said Kass. “Once we can get a couple meetings set up with the city and get our lease done then you will probably see things start to develop pretty quick.”

The organization hopes to begin tear downs after next year’s VIEX.

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