IRMC Current Projects

Island Roots Market Co-op Presents:


President Larry Whaley responds to Nanaimo city staff concerns around the year- round market building proposed for Beban Park. 

The following is Larry's response to an email sent by The City of Nanaimo staff member Mary Smith who is the Manager of Recreation Services Department of Parks & Recreation.



Hi Mary


Thank you for providing this opportunity to clear up some misconceptions about our plans for a year round indoor/outdoor farmers market at Beban Park and the chance to begin to move the project forward in an agreeable way. As I said in my brief initial response to your comments we seem to have done a poor job of explaining what we have in mind. Since the most recent Information you had from us is the same information that we presented to Council on May 10/17 and have posted here on our website I am concerned that others may have the same interpretation of our plans as you.  As a result I will be sending a copy of this email to Mayor and Council and posting it online in an effort to provide a clearer understanding.


I will address your comments in the order you raised them.


Your first point - Island Roots should do a Feasibility Study - On January 10, 2017 the Board of the Regional District of Nanaimo agreed to provide Island Roots a $25,000 grant with which to conduct a feasibility study. On February 20 we contracted with Chrysalid Architecture to provide the study and do the necessary architectural work. Work on the study began shortly thereafter. The study can not be completed, however, until we have a clear agreement regarding what we will be permitted to build at the Park and exactly which bit of land we are to build it on. The study continued slowly while we waited for your responses to our queries about a lease. After spending $7500 we decided we can go no further until this matter is dealt with. Work on the study was suspended on June 26. 


To finish up the estimate and feasibility study, we need

Clarification from the city regarding what we will be able to do on the land and the exact land is to be used.

Structural Engineer input

Civil Engineer Report

Feedback from City regarding Landscape / Paving / Parking / Development Cost Charges / etc.

Architectural drawings incorporating engineering and planning requirements.

Further work by the QS. Estimate right now is very conservative and likely high because of lack of information. 

Compile information into report format

Your First Option: Continue to pursue development at Beban Park (or any City Park)

·        Move to a registered not-for-profit governance model,


I do not understand why this should be necessary. Nevertheless at our meeting (City staff and Island Roots) on June 16/17 we advised you that at the Island Roots Market Co-operative's April 21 AGM the membership voted unanimously to change our Memorandum of Association and Rules to do exactly this. At the same meeting (with you) I advised you that City Council was made aware of this at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on May 10/17. Documents needed to complete this change have been submitted to the Provincial Registry. In addition, please note Island Roots is working on this project in partnership with The Bowen Road Farmers Market Society which is also a not for profit. 


·        Scale back the scope of the project to a ‘farmers market’ only**,


It would seem that, because we operate a farmers market and since that is our reason for being, we have mistakenly taken it for granted that others would understand that no matter what it is called a "retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers" is what we are all about. Any plans made or action taken in addition to this are intended to support the farmer and other local food producers without whom a farmers market can not survive. Anchor tenants will be local farmers and related local producers who will sell directly to consumers, exactly as stated in the definition you provided. I believe that everything in our plan, including the educational components and anchor tenants will assist farmers in selling their product directly to consumers but please let me know which specific items concern you and I will be happy to discuss them with you.


·        Operate no more than 2 days per week,


Why? Is the building expected to remain vacant for the rest of the week or do you have other plans for it? This could have a significant impact on our ability to meet operating and development cost.


·        Phase facility development over time starting with a covered outdoor space suitable for year round market use.


A covered outdoor space, in my opinion, can never be suitable for year round market use. At best it could extend the summer season one or two weeks at each end. This would not give farmers and value-added food producers the certainty and income they need to expand production, higher workers and assist with providing food security for the Island. In addition it is my view that raising funds for such a short sighted project would be extremely difficult. Hence, the only option here would be for the city to build and operate the market without a Community Partner. 


One option, that might work in this regard, however, is for the City to build a covered outdoor Market space in close proximity to the Centennial Building and to make the Centennial Building available for the winter and summer markets. While this would not be ideal it might be possible for a Community Partner to raise the funds needed to renovate the building into an attractive farmers market that could provide producers with the certainty and support needed to expand to year round food production and consumers with the comfort they need to visit the market in support of local producers during all weather conditions. Both hot and cold weather negatively impact outdoor farmers markets.


For Island Roots or any Community Partner to do this in stages, I believe, it is necessary to start with something that can work. Building just a covered outdoor market would cost less but, in my view, it would not be able to pay its development cost. That leaves phased development (if it is to succeed) beginning with the indoor market. This is something we can certainly consider when talking with the QS. The questions for me are how much would building the outdoor part of the farmers market at a later date add to the overall cost of the project and how effective can the summer market be without an outdoor space?


Your Option 2:


Pursue development anywhere other than a City park


Island Roots thoroughly researched this idea in the two years after our Co-op was registered and before we opened our market at the Pleasant Valley Hall. We can find no way to make it work.




From the City of Nanaimo's Strategic Plan Update (2016-2019)


The City aims to:

through partnerships, develop a poverty reduction strategy focusing on affordable housing, homelessness, food security, children, mental health and addictions.

Projects include: Beban Park Facilities Re-Development/Master Plan


From the Regional District Of Nanaimo's Agricultural Area Plan


Action Item 2.2B

Support a year-round indoor farmers market, possibly at the VIEx grounds.

Leads: City of Nanaimo, BCAFM, Local farmers markets


Supporting: RDN


Priority: High 

Time Frame: Medium - To be completed within 3 to 5 years after adoption (in 2012) of the AAP

Requirements: Moderate to Significant depending on location and management model.

Sources: Vendor fees, grants, RDN, credit unions.


Here is a copy of the email sent by Mary Smith: 


Hi Larry, my apologies for the length of time it’s taken to respond.  We needed to confirm that the information we were providing was correct and unfortunately that took longer than expected. 


Having clarified the limitations of development within a public park with consideration to the Parks Bylaw and the Community Charter, we can see there being 2 options for development of a year round market.  For either option we strongly recommend a thorough feasibility study be done to help guide the direction of the IRMC;


Option 1:

 Continue to pursue development at Beban Park (or any City Park)

·        Move to a registered not-for-profit governance model,


·        Scale back the scope of the project to a ‘farmers market’ only**,


·        Operate no more than 2 days per week,


·        Phase facility development over time starting with a covered outdoor space suitable for year round market use.


**A farmers' market is defined as a physical retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers. Farmers' markets typically consist of booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, prepared foods and beverages and sometimes handmade arts and crafts.


Option 2:

Pursue development anywhere other than a City park

·        Keep existing project vision as a public market with retail and other associated business uses,


·        Lease land or building from private sector or City at market rent,


·        Identify community partners to help fund.



Please give me a call if you have any questions.




Mary B. Smith

Manager, Recreation Services

Department of Parks & Recreation

phone 250-756-5201



Island Roots Market Co-op is about eating local food and healthy living. It’s about community connection, social transformation, environmental preservation and rebuilding a once flourishing local food industry. More than just a concept, the Island Roots Market Cooperative will provide a permanent, year-round space for shoppers, vendors, farmers, artisans and the community.


The YRCM will have three key components: the indoor marketplace, the outdoor marketplace and the flexible office and community activity area.


The 10,043 square foot market core will be a climate controlled area. It will house the market’s five anchor vendors including a catering kitchen that will provide a space to prepare and deliver locally grown and produced food to the market, banquets and other functions being held away from the YRCM. A highlight in the market will be the education area where cooking and other demonstrations can be done. Displays will be filled with vendor goods on market days. 


Sounds of local musicians will create a lively market atmosphere and the aroma of food freshly made in the catering kitchen and bakery will fill the air. It will include a children’s play area, seating for customers and storage for the market.  


On non market days the main floor will be available for classes, meetings and other activities.                       


The covered outdoor marketplace will be 5910 square feet and will be a venue for up to 50 additional vendors during warmer weather. It will include space to demonstrate agricultural activities where producers and consumers can share information on gardening and related outdoor activities. When not fully utilized by vendors space will be available to families and groups that need a covered space for picnics, family reunions, educational and similar activities. 


The 5102 square foot second floor above the market is an integral part of bringing the community together. This flexible space can provide locations for offices, business/community group meetings, classes, displays, banquets and even a small performance area. It is sure to  become a home to the arts community with space to display local art.  


This design allows the market to thrive in all conditions, providing optimal shopping conditions for all consumers as well as a central location for the community to gather. Our focus is to design and create a project that will attract a broad spectrum of residents from toddlers to seniors throughout the year, as well as appeal to the wide range of out of town shoppers and tourists that frequent the region.


With the assistance of community volunteers, we will promote the importance of buying local and increase support for, and awareness of, our local food industry by providing opportunities to learn and engage in local food production as well as developing partnerships with other Vancouver Island based organizations whose goals reflect those of the IRMC. 


We are looking for volunteers. Please join us in creating an indoor year-round farmers and artisans market. For more information contact Kim - or stop by the Market @ Beban Park on Wednesdays from 4- 6:30 or Saturdays from 10-2.