Last year, Matt Pinder and I walked Merivale Road and then we wrote a post about it together. It was one of the best read posts last year. We addressed the several issues on Merivale and looked into the future of the ‘stroad’. While I have been living near Merivale for over 20 years, I tend to avoid it as much as I can though. However, our walk revealed something I had not noticed before.
Increase in ethnic restaurants
There are many more eateries than I realised. In particular, I noticed an increase in ethnic restaurants and take outs. I don’t really have an explanation for this, but I can guess that with many new immigrants arriving, the demand for food is changing: less fat, more pho, less burgers, more biryani.
Intensification on Merivale Road
It might also just be a lower rent per square foot then downtown or Chinatown (is it?) or simply something as banal as free parking. And perhaps intensification, as the Merivale area sees a lot of construction of housing units. Most likely it is a combination of several factors that drives this surge in restaurants.
As unlikely as it sounds for a not very attractive suburban environment like Merivale, for many, like myself, it is a 15 minute neighbourhood with grocery stores, a library, hairdressers, medical services, dozens of food and coffee places, car services and dealerships and even a seasonal night market.
Nepean Trail behind Merivale Road
Merivale has potential as a Main Street but it needs work, Matt told me, and outspoken architect Toon Driessen and Councillor Devine agree. The latter one even dreams about an entire reboot of the stroad. The Nepean Trail on the east side allows for relatively easy access though to many shops on Merivale: I rarely have to bike on Merivale to get somewhere. I don’t need to use Merivale to get to Kardish, the Barley Mow or Casa Mexico, the library or the Indian Grocery Store for Garam Massala.
Merivale Road food map
Merivale doesn’t have a BIA: small restaurants are all on their own to promote their business. Doing an inventory of food on Merivale, I drew a quick map of all the places between Viewmount at the south end of the district and Baseline at the north end. The winter has been crappy so far, and what else does one do with all those days off around Christmas?
Then it got out of hand and I created the map digitally and then I got over excited and created a name for the area with a nod to SoHo and TriBeCa in New York. I mean, if CNN believes Ottawa is the place to be for 2023, why not aim for the stars. With a new approach comes a new name: the Merivale area becomes ‘NeMa’ as in NEpean MAin (street).
Ottawa in CNN’s Best destinations to travel
Listed between places in Laos, Colombia, Mexico, Uganda, Poland and Sweden, Ottawa made this year’s CNN list of places to visit for the Jazz festival, the Ottawa Senators and other stalwards such as Parliament Hill and skating on the Rideau Canal.
Whatever “international oomph” (clogged traffic and shootings?) is, readers of my blog know that it is really the cycling that visitors come to Ottawa for.
Bus to NeMa
Of course, you could drive to Merivale, but you need a car. Planning to take the bus instead? You have a smorgasbord of buses to choose from. Bus 80 runs down Merivale, bus 88 runs along Baseline, bus 86 along Meadowlands. Bus 111 runs along Viewmount. It’s only 22 minutes by bus 88 from Hurdman Station to Merivale and Baseline.
Bike to NeMa
You could also bike here, it is just south of the Experimental Farm. You don’t want to cycle on Merivale ever, but fortunately there is a network of streets and the odd pathway on both sides as you can see on the map. The cross roads are OK to bike on too, except perhaps Meadowlands for some of us.
NeMa’s food outlets
The map is not 100% to scale (but very close) and the bike route west (top of the map) of Baseline deserves better. That route is definitely something I have to work on with College Ward councillor Johnson. (Update: I met with the councillor on Friday after I published the map and we are going to work on improvements). Especially the several paths are in poor condition and not winter maintained: permeability to the malls could be better. If we want people to walk, the infra has to be first class and direct.
So here is your overview with no less than about 90 food outlets in NeMa. Let me know if I missed something. (Edit: updated map January 18)
Welcome to NeMa!
If you want to have your own PDF 8.5″ x 11″ sized (compressed) copy of the map, you can find the NeMa map here.