Vanier BIA rebrand aims to highlight community vibrance, business growth

Nathalie Carrier knows that for people outside of the community, the name Vanier can conjure up plenty of unflattering images. 

But as it enters a new phase of transformation, Carrier, the executive director of Vanier BIA, said community and business leaders are striving to show off everything the neighbourhood has to offer. 

Last month, the Vanier BIA launched its official rebrand, which introduced a new look that reflects the area’s vibrance, as well as its diversity. 

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“The rebrand is all based on richness in contrasts,” Carrier said, referring to the BIA’s new slogan. 

The braided design of their colourful logo, she adds, is “meant to be representative of the different cultures we have here, and how we’re all woven together.”

The campaign is an effort to combat the long-held idea that Vanier doesn’t have anything to offer investors and businesses, let alone residents.

“Historically, Montreal Road was the traditional Main Street,” she said. “Then gentrification, and certainly amalgamation, proved to be a little more challenging for our community. Most of the revitalization that had to happen was below ground. It wasn’t really about making the sidewalks pretty or putting up banners.”

Over time, major infrastructure improvements have allowed the business scene to diversify as much as the community itself. New systems solved low-flow gas and defective water mains that prevented businesses like high-end restaurants from coming in. 

It also allowed for a new wave of densification, as developers started choosing Vanier as a place to build apartments and condos.

Over time, Vanier has become one of the most diverse communities in Ottawa, Carrier said, boasting the highest number of Indigenous peoples, as well as Inuit, and the highest percentage of newcomers and new businesses in the city, not to mention the historic francophone population. 

“As we’re entering this new phase of densification, we’re actively trying to preserve both the history and the quality of what we have,” she said. “Where the BIA comes in is over the last seven years, we’ve really been trying to create these inclusive spaces, for all to be seen and welcomed, including, of course, the businesses.”

According to Carrier, there has been an influx of investment into the area.

“We’re heading towards a new beginning, if you will, where we’re seeing the kinds of investments on Montreal Road and within our community, with the kinds of investors that understand Vanier and seem to really care about Vanier,” she said. 

“We’re seeing in the last five years massive amounts of investments, massive amounts of people coming here and not wanting to change it, but wanting to insert themselves within it. We certainly want to see more of that.”

The wave of business is a reflection of what the community has to offer. As Carrier pointed out, Vanier is often forgotten as a part of downtown. Its central location, coupled with its relative affordability and vibrant customer base, provides ample opportunities that aren’t available in other parts of the city. 

Carrier said the community is an ideal incubator for local businesses, with some finding early success starting off in Vanier. 

And the community is expected to continue growing, with multiple housing developments on the horizon. Up to 10,000 new units are to be constructed around Montreal Road over the next five to 10 years. 

The BIA itself also sees its role within the community changing.

Carrier said it’s taken up a mandate to be more community-based, prioritizing initiatives that go beyond business and focus on advocating for social solutions and gathering spaces. 

She added that the BIA’s shifting responsibilities are also a reflection of how the role of business leaders is changing more broadly. 

“Main streets are changing, not just in Ottawa, but across Canada and North America. BIAs and business districts are taking on these roles as ‘custodians of the main streets,’ and we’re now more active and involved in questions of housing and the public realm,” she said. 

Current efforts include advocating for more social services and affordable housing to assist residents dealing with homelessness, drug use and unemployment. 

“We can’t just focus on businesses, because businesses are influenced by the ecosystem in which they live, which is facing serious challenges,” Carrier said.

The BIA is also prioritizing its work with the local food bank. An upcoming dinner at Beechwood Cemetery is already selling fast, with proceeds donated to the organization. Last year, the event raised $30,000. 

To keep up its role as a community steward, the BIA puts on events often associated more with community organizations than business associations. From weekly Family Fun Nights, to a parking lot skate park, Carrier said the organization wants to ensure community members are thriving just as much as businesses. 

“We see ourselves as the gatherer, the nucleus,” she said. “We’re really trying to create places for voices to be heard, for people to live and feel safe, and for the community to grow.”

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