Nanaimo City Council facing crucial vote for proposed Ocean Discovery Centre

Nanaimo City Council facing crucial vote for proposed Ocean Discovery Centre

WATCH: Backers of a proposed tourist attraction for Nanaimo are hoping to take an important step forward this week towards making their project a reality. Kendall Hanson reports.

Nanaimo City Council is set to vote on a draft plan Monday for a nearly 11-hectare piece of land it owns just south of its downtown.

The Association behind the Ocean Discovery Centre hopes council will give approval to the centre being built on the property.

Tim Tessier of the Nanaimo Deep Discovery Association says the ideal location for the proposed Ocean Discovery Centre is on the waterfront on a property owned by the City of Nanaimo.

He says the interactive $50-million facility would not only educate people but become an iconic destination in the city.

“It will be beautiful,” said Tessier. “It would be like science world in Vancouver. When you show the picture people recognize where it is. That’s what the Ocean Discovery Centre will become for the City of Nanaimo.”

But the centre needs a home. Its backers want to build it on the waterfront section of city-owned land at 1 Port Drive.

City council is poised to approve a draft plan for the property this week. Tessier wants council to also green light the Ocean Discovery Centre as part of it.

“So it’s crucial,” said Tessier. “Without their support, we’re stopped.”

He adds that council support would allow the society to seek the funding to build the centre.

The planned size is 6,000 square meters. Once built, the society would then lease the land back from the city.

According to an appraisal, the city says that amount of land is worth $2.9 to 5.2 million depending on the proximity to the waterfront.

But Tessier says when you consider the hundreds of thousands who will visit the Centre, it would be worth it.

“Look at [it] over a five-year projection and this will generate through direct and indirect development well over $200 million. That’s a very good return so it’s not a gift,” said Tessier.

A recent survey by the city found 72 per cent of people approve the Ocean Discovery Centre being built on the property. Another 19 per cent said they needed more information.

A Nanaimo city councillor is among those who want to see it built on 1 Port Drive.

“That’s one of the few things that’s come before us that really isn’t asking for a whole lot,” said city councillor Gord Fuller. “They would just like to have an area to locate. They plan to build it they plan to staff it. They plan to do everything with it and I think this is the perfect area for it.”

Tessier says the Port Authority believes the centre could help attract an extra 25 cruise ships per year.

But councils support is needed before any more work towards the dream here can proceed.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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