A natural hotbed for the arts and entrepreneurship

Vanier’s natural attributes fuel its gentrification
Beechwood Ave.
Beechwood Ave., Quartier Vanier

Local leadership with an eye to the future and deep respect for the past. A community mindset that embraces and celebrates “different.” An affordable neighbourhood with a great location adjacent to downtown.

Vanier is levering all these strengths to build a bright future for all its residents. “Gentrification” isn’t something that’s being forced upon this unique community. It’s the natural next step in its evolution.

Just ask social entrepreneur Janak Alford, founder of prototypeD TEAM Inc.

Grounds for creativity to grow

Janak came to Vanier several years ago, searching for the right location on which to develop a new housing development that would respect the character of its neighbourhood. Vanier residents impressed him with the pride they took in their community’s eclectic diversity and their desire to maintain its authenticity and integrity as they look to the future.

His development – a four-unit apartment building with a renovated 1950s bungalow – completed in January. By that point, he had already become a resident of Vanier.

“I really love Vanier,” he said. “We wanted to live in this community because it has been so receptive and supportive of our crazy ideas. It’s a fun community to walk around and bike around. My son and I are always going to new places.”

Janak gives full credit to Vanier’s community leaders for their efforts to grow the neighbourhood in a positive way while remaining true to its roots. He considers the most important Vanier narrative to be the one that recognizes it as a hotbed for the arts and entrepreneurship.

“Groups of creative people who are following their passions for entrepreneurship or the arts have to make sacrifices,” he said. “More affordable neigbhourhoods like Vanier naturally become grounds for creativity to grow. Vanier definitely has that appeal because it is more affordable for young families and entrepreneurs and it is getting that cachet.”

Cachet, indeed. But don’t just take his word for it. Just look at the numbers.

Running with the last available census data, Vanier’s population grew by 2.8 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Household incomes climbed by almost 13 per cent during this period. One quarter of Vanier’s population has an annual household income over $100,000. Almost half of the working population within the boundary of the Quartier Vanier BIA work in the federal public service.

And why not? Consider how easy of a commute it is from Vanier to the government, professional and high-tech jobs downtown – some 285,000 jobs, just to the east and south.  

The opportunity to bring more high-end goods and services to the area shouldn’t be overlooked. As of 2013, Vanier businesses were capturing less than half of residents’ collective $820 million in annual retail and service spending.

Riding the crest

This trend is paying off for Beechwood Avenue business owners Lauren Power and Greg Boone. Like Janak, they have found Vanier fertile soil in which to seed something new.

Lauren was no stranger to Vanier when she and Greg launched Red Door Provisions two years ago. She had spent her teens in the area, attending high school in neighbouring Rockcliffe.

After 10 years away, she returned to Ottawa to find big changes afoot in her old stomping ground.

“We saw that Beechwood was right on this crest of new development, with proposals for upscale condo projects,” she said. “We knew the potential of the neighbourhood and we wanted to be part of this renewal, part of the boost.”

This “boost” is happening across Vanier, from Beechwood, to McArthur Avenue and Montréal Road.

“Vanier is an up-and-coming place for sure,” Greg said. “It’s changing every day. We like the neighbourhood aspect – everyone knows everyone. It’s not overrun by big commercial entities. It still feels like most every business is unique to this area. Even the big box stores have this community vibe to them.”

As entrepreneurs, location combined with affordable real estate in their choice of Vanier. Manageable startup costs have allowed them to flourish. Their lunch café and bakery features a unique mix of fresh-made treats, great coffees and house sodas, hearty brunch fare, and Lauren’s own signature jams, marmalades, chutneys and garlic scapes.

Driving the eat local movement

Over on McArthur Avenue, Chef Eric Patenaude found the same key ingredients to build his dream business – Todric’s Restaurant and Catering.

When Eric decided to expand his catering business with a restaurant nine years ago, he wanted a location with room for growth that he could afford to purchase outright instead of lease. That search led him to Vanier. He not only became a business owner in the area, he became a resident, too.

Todric’s draws its own loyal following of customers from the community and big local employers such as the RCMP. It also serves as a tasty advertisement for the catering side of the business.

Don’t expect grocery store-style sandwich catering here. Todric’s is known for the quality, originality and healthy variety of its menus, based around fresh produce sourced from local farmers. The catering business is in demand for everything from cocktail receptions and embassy events, to corporate functions and life events like weddings.

“It’s a great location geographically, giving us quick access to client locations downtown,” Eric said. “We’ve certainly seen a lot of change since we moved in. I’ve even had customers who haven’t been to Vanier in a while comment on how different it is from what they remember.”

Become part of the community

Vanier is growing in size and affluence. Its diversity, affordability, authenticity, and appeal to artists and entrepreneurs alike makes it one of the most distinct and dynamic communities in the National Capital Region.

“People forget how gorgeous the area is – we’re on the water, there’s tons of greenspace and parks, we’re five minutes from the ByWard Market,” said Lauren. “We have so much to offer. We really are stoked to be a business in this neighbourhood and be a champion for Vanier.”

To learn more about business and investment opportunities in Vanier, visit www.vanierbia.com or call the Quartier Vanier BIA office at 613-745-0040.

Did you know:

In the summer of 2015, Janak Alford and the prototypeD team worked with the QBIA and the to bring a CloudLab to Vanier – a mobile maker space housed in a modified big-rig trailer. More innovative projects are planned for Vanier that will engage local creative and arts groups and entrepreneurs, supported by the next iteration of prototypeD’s mobile maker spaces – its Innovation Pods. This will all tie back to prototypeD’s work with Ottawa’s new Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards.

Go to www.investinQV.com to download the free digital magazine and meet the businesspeople of Quartier Vanier, hear their stories, and learn more about the opportunities for developers, investors and retailers within this thriving community.

DOWNLOAD HERE

Interested in setting up shop in Vanier, visit www.vanierbia.com or call the Quartier Vanier BIA office at 613-745-0040.