Coworkly draws a new generation of entrepreneurs to Vanier

Montreal Road space to mark International Coworking Day on Aug. 9

From startup founders to freelancers to federal bureaucrats, professionals across the National Capital Region are embracing coworking – a popular trend that’s attracted and nurtured a new cohort of professionals in Vanier.

Working alongside other individuals engaged in different projects and initiatives gives remote workers and the self-employed the option to escape their kitchen table or a noisy coffee shop for ample, open space as well as high-speed internet, coffee and a community of like-minded professionals.

 

“I was frustrated to see so much of the space of the building was vacant,” Arar says. “I changed real estate agents four times only to realize it was not the agent: People did not want to come to Vanier. I decided to turn the space into a beautiful coworking space to attract them to Vanier.”



Vanier is home to one of the city’s growing coworking spaces. Coworkly is located at 261 Montreal Rd. inside an office building that was formerly home to several medical clinics and organizations. It was only after Ottawa entrepreneur Maher Arar purchased the building several years ago and kept coming up short on leasing out the office space he decided to do something different.

“I was frustrated to see so much of the space of the building was vacant,” Arar says. “I changed real estate agents four times only to realize it was not the agent: People did not want to come to Vanier. I decided to turn the space into a beautiful coworking space to attract them to Vanier.”

Coworkly opened its doors in April 2018 and welcomed its first tenants to a facility that features exposed ceilings, open and comfortable workspaces, glass-walled meeting rooms and free coffee and tea.

In addition to the physical space, Arar also organizes free weekly lunch-and-learn information sessions and provides indoor bike storage and showers for tenants.

There are also phone booths and a quiet room for naps, meditation and yoga.

But it’s not just the amenities that are proving popular with Coworkly users. Tenants say being surrounded by talented, like-minded individuals has helped build their businesses.

SparkPath founder JP Michel says that, in hindsight, he regrets having worked for so long at home and in coffee shops. The online work-ready resource company now leases office space at Coworkly.

“I’ve helped several people with their businesses, and several people have helped me,” Michel says. “I’ve hired members for different jobs, and I have received help or advice from several people who are more experienced than I am in certain areas.”

International Coworking Day

The coworking movement is often said to have started in 2005 in San Francisco by software engineer Brad Neuberg.

“I was confused because I had both worked for myself and worked at a job and was unhappy because I couldn’t seem to combine all the things I wanted at the same time: the freedom and independence of working for myself along with the structure and community of working with others,” Neuberg wrote on his blog, Coding in Paradise.

Fast-forward 14 years later and his idea is now a global phenomenon celebrated annually with International Coworking Day, which will be held on Aug. 9.

To celebrate here in Vanier, Arar said Coworkly will offer the community complimentary coworking inside for the day. Additionally, the company will set up two coworking tables outside the building in the green space across from Coworkly.

“Coworking is being and working with like-minded individuals who support each other,” Arar says. “It helps people escape social isolation at home and the noise and unreliable internet at coffee shops. Coworking helps entrepreneurs, remote workers, and freelancers be more productive.”

He adds that Vanier proved to be an ideal neighbourhood in which to launch Coworkly, given its proximity to downtown Ottawa, large concentration of young professionals and a multitude of restaurants and unique shops in the immediate vicinity.

“What makes me happy is that people from all walks of life joined Coworkly,” Arar says. “We have a sense of community. We are like one family. We take care of each other.”

Unique restaurants, specialty food shops turn Vanier into a destination for foodies

Beechwood Avenue, Montreal Road and McArthur Avenue each offer unique flavours

Where in Ottawa can chefs find a full-sized octopus, the perfect cut of locally sourced meat, authentic Mexican food and dozens of other dishes and ingredients from around the world?

The answer is simple – come to Vanier.

“I get a kick out of being able to have the products for everyone.” – Filipe Correia, Mario’s Food Centre

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“Whether it’s Norwegian Cod, Portuguese sausage, pastries, olive oil – I try to have everything that someone might be looking for,” Filipe Correia says about his store, Mario’s Food Centre, located at 381 McArthur Ave. 

Mario’s Food Centre opened its doors in 1964. While many things along McArthur may have changed over the years, Correia says one thing remains the same: The selection of food carried in his store. 

The shop sells Portuguese, Brazilian and Spanish food and attracts customers from across Ottawa and as far away as Montreal, Correia says. Once, he even received a call from a woman overseas who was about to fly into Ottawa and wanted to stop by the shop for groceries. 

“She wanted to make sure I had what she was looking for,” he says. “People come from all over and I get a kick out of being able to have the products for everyone.”

Mario’s Food Centre isn’t the only unique stop along McArthur – the street is peppered with businesses offering delicious options. 

One is a personal favourite of Correia’s – YKO BBQ Chicken, located a few doors down from his own store. Correia admits he eats there more than a few times a week. 

McArthur Avenue is a bit of an international food quarter of Vanier, he says. 

From Indian cuisine, Greek food, pizza, ice cream, Middle Eastern products and the All Africa Market – a trip down McArthur Avenue gives visitors a chance to taste food and ingredients from around the world.

“We all complement each other,” Correia says. 

 

MONTREAL ROAD AND BEECHWOOD AVENUE

However delectable the wares offered by McArthur Avenue’s merchants might be, Correia notes that there are many other mouthwatering temptations in other corners of Vanier. 

Mainstay dishes on Montreal Road include pho, pizza, shawarma, smoked meat and authentic Mexican food.

But the experiences are not limited to simply tasting the neighbourhood’s delicious food. There is also an opportunity to learn how to make it yourself. 

Macaroon shop Quelque Chose Pâtisserie hosts French macaroon classes at its flagship shop at 274 Montreal Rd., offering aspiring bakers the chance to learn from the pros.

Meanwhile, Andrew Muckleston – the proprietor of Beechwood Avenue butcher Muckleston and Brockwell – says he offers classes at his shop to help people learn more about what they are eating, where it comes from and hopefully gain a new respect for butchery. 

The hands-on experience helps individuals learn about the cuts and how the meat can be used.  

“It’s a great experience for all skill levels,” Muckleston says.

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Muckleston’s shop sources its meat from small-scale, local producers. Understanding the origins of his products helps him easily answer his customers’ questions.

“People want to know more about what they’re eating and where it came from,” he says. “That the food you are eating is top quality, ethically sourced, local, hormone and antibiotic free – something that you really can’t put a price tag on.”

 

Vanier BIA, community partners roll out new crime-prevention tools

Property audits among measures available to merchants

The Vanier BIA is arming its merchants with the tools they need to become leaders in crime prevention this summer.

The BIA recently met with the area’s community police officer, Crime Prevention Vanier, the Vanier Community Association and local merchants in a proactive approach to reducing crime in the district.

“The BIA and its merchants understand the important role we play in crime prevention,” said Nathalie Carrier, the executive director of the Vanier BIA. “Our approach is to get our merchants the tools they need to contribute to crime prevention,” she added.

The BIA will be offering monthly tips and advice for merchants looking for guidance or new ideas in how to make their business – and wider community – safer.

“We all understand that a safer neighbourhood is not only good for its people, but also for its businesses,”

Nathalie Carrier, Vanier BIA executive director
Lighting up a dark parking lot is just one of the steps a business can make to help prevent crime. Look for a list of tips and tricks from the Vanier BIA in the upcoming newsletter.

This work builds on several existing projects and partnerships, including those with the area’s community police officer, Cst. Vianney Calixte, to conduct audits under a program known as “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.”

These audits help identify physical and design changes that can help reduce crime, such as cutting back overgrown shrubs, improving parking lot lighting and creating better sightlines around a property.

“We all understand that a safer neighbourhood is not only good for its people, but also for its businesses,” Carrier said.

WORKING TOGETHER

Simply adding lighting is one of the most common suggestions made by Lucie Marleau, the founder of Crime Prevention Vanier. A well-lit parking lot is far less likely to attract undesirable activity than one shrouded in darkness, she said.

Marleau has worked to improve safety in the community for more than a decade and created Crime Prevention Vanier to complement the work undertaken by Crime Prevention Ottawa.

“Experience has taught us that our crime prevention efforts can only be effective and sustainable if every actor plays their part,” Marleau said, explaining that it takes more than just police officers and city officials to make an area safe.

“No crime happens in a vacuum, and each crime touches all of us living (and) working in Vanier in tangible and less tangible ways,” Marleau said.

This team-based approach is also embraced by the Vanier Community Association, which supports the BIA’s efforts to share crime-prevention tools with merchants.

“Business are an important part of our community, and our residents are part of their clientele,” said Lauren Touchant, president of the community association. “We are deeply interrelated therefore, we all have a responsibility to keep our neighbourhood safe and we hope these tips and tricks will better equip business owners.”

Keep an eye out for the latest crime prevention tips and tricks in the BIA’s monthly e-newsletter. Businesses can also visit CrimePreventionOttawa.ca or ensemblepourvanier.com for a full list of crime prevention tools.

Secret Dinner expands to Montreal Road in Vanier

Vanessa Fidelis had lived in Ottawa for almost 15 years. An avid traveler and curious person, she was beginning to feel like she was in a rut.

But in the fall of 2017, something sparked an idea in her mind – a communal dinner, hosted at an unconventional location, featuring a menu by a local chef. Everything except for the mysterious theme would be left unknown until the last-minute reveal.

The first secret dinner was held in December 2017, outdoors in La Peche -17-degree weather. Nineteen people sat at a long table in a location that had been revealed to them only upon arrival, discovering a menu none of them had seen before.

Vanessa and her fiance, Zach, had brought their friends to that table hoping the experience would spark new friendships and a renewed curiosity for what Ottawa has to offer. The idea worked.

“We just kind of ran with it,” says Vanessa, who has years of event management experience already. Now, every corner of Ottawa is a possible location for the next secret dinner.

“We’ll do no theme twice, and no location twice,” she says. The pair push the chefs they partner with to think out of the box, giving them the creative reins and letting the themes guide the finished product.

Past themes have included Smoke and Shine, which was held at a Christmas tree farm in June, and The Poets, held in July at Vanier’s Beechwood Cemetery.

Several dinners later, the pair are preparing to move the Secret Dinner operations from their home into an office at the heart of Vanier on Montreal Road.

Why Vanier? Vanessa says the dinner at Beechwood Cemetery opened her up to the community and made her feel like it was the right place to be.

She says the Beechwood Cemetery is one of the best-kept secrets in Ottawa, even for locals.

“I had no idea that this cemetery was what it was,” she says. The national cemetery is the final resting place of more than 5,000 soldiers and includes a “poets’ corner” of well-known writers that inspired the theme for the dinner. It also has one of the last unobstructed views of Parliament in the city.

For the dinner, they kept things even more local than usual. Chef Warren Sutherland of Beechwood Avenue’s Sutherland Restaurant was responsible for the Jamaican-inspired menu. Local social enterprise Eco Equitable made the napkins from recycled materials, Queen B’s supplied peanut-free macaroons, Harvest Honey brought honeycomb to the menu, and more – all Vanier businesses and people, who Vanessa says were eager to bring their energy and work to the event.

That welcoming enthusiasm is what convinced her and Zach to move in when the opportunity arose, with the hopes of building on the connections they made and growing Secret Dinner’s reach.

“What’s good for Vanier is good for Ottawa,” says Vanessa. “Everywhere you look in Ottawa, people are willing to help, and people are willing to get on board … Every single day I am surprised and I am shocked at how cool this city can be.”

Secret Dinner is now offering private events as well, which Vanessa hopes will make it a more sustainable venture.

“We know what we have ahead of us, and we know what we’ve done in the past, and I think we have all the information we need to execute some really amazing dinners,” she says.

Vanessa says she hopes the secret dinners help open participants’ eyes to all the interesting things happening in Ottawa that often get overlooked.

“There are these crazy, cool little places in Ottawa … and I think Vanier is really jumping on that bandwagon,” says Vanessa. “There’s so much here. Why don’t we showcase it?”