The cost of building a showpiece permanent farm market in Courtenay could be as much as $6.5 million, city councillors heard this week.

But for that amount of money, the proposed complex – on the cleared Farquharson Farm site near 17th Street Bridge – would be much more than a new home for existing vendors.

Local farm producers currently operate a very popular market from simple tents and booths.For most of the year they set up their stalls at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds on Saturdays and Simms Park on Wednesdays, but in winter they operate Saturdays only out of the K’ómoks Band Hall on Dyke Road.

The new permanent building is being championed by the Comox Valley Economic Development Society as part of its wider program to promote local agriculture and local produce.

In addition to offering space for existing vendors at the proposed building, CVEDS suggests the complex might include agriculture-related educational facilities for North Island College; a permanent shellfish sales centre; a butcher’s shop preparing locally-grown meats; a produce distribution centre; a conservation interpretive centre; and offices, meeting rooms and exhibition space.

While there have been studies into the ideas and preliminary impressions of what the building might look like, it is still relatively early days for the project.

And no one is actually committed to making use of the facility, although there is said to be considerable interest if the costs are considered affordable.

But to get the project moving, the city council agreed this week that if it were to be built, they would be willing to take ownership and management responsibility for it.

That willingness to take control would, however, be subject to two big conditions:

First, all the construction costs for the 51,000 sq ft complex would have to be covered by others, or through grants and donations. The City is not offering to put up any construction cash itself.

And second, it would want financial contributions from all the local governments and electoral areas in the Comox Valley towards ongoing operating costs, collected through a regional district service charge on all property taxes.

Courtenay’s director of planning services, Peter Crawford, said it was envisaged the building would be developed in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, which owns the land.

The Economic Development Society sought the agreement of the City to run the building so they could take their quest for construction funds to the next stage.

Crawford added: “The further development of this concept facility and partnership could include First Nations involvement, a Ducks Unlimited interpretation centre, a greenways system around the entire Ducks Unlimited property with interpretive stations, inclusion of shellfish and wine industries, and the food industry.”
© Comox Valley Echo 2010

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