Maher Arar is rebuilding his life and the Vanier neighbourhood where he has set up shop.

Arar, a Syrian-Canadian, was wrongly accused of having ties to terrorism and arrested by American security officials in 2002. Arar was sent to Syria based partly on bad intelligence information from Canadian police. Arar was imprisoned and tortured for almost a year. In 2007, Arar was awarded a $10 million settlement.

Arar is now the driving force behind Coworkly; a cutting-edge co-working business he started in the last year at 261 Montreal Road in a building he bought more than 10 years ago. Coworkly offers clients; often young entrepreneurs a space to work alongside other like-minded professionals.

“We hear it every day, new members, that's precisely why they join, they feel part of a tribe here. They feel just not alone.” said Arar. “Loneliness kills. It's really bad...That makes plain why I opened this place.”

“Maher’s very good at fostering relationships with other people,” said Jonathan Moore who runs communications consulting business, “I think when I first got involved I wasn’t really sure who he was.” According to Moore, Arar’s personality and authenticity make him an asset to the community. “I don’t think there are many people in my life who are as humble and generous as he is. There’s no pretense, there’s no smoke and mirrors. What he says is what he means.”

Like the community he’s joined and has invested in, Arar wants people in Ottawa to give Vanier a second chance.

“Never prejudge a person or a neighbourhood, in this case, by how it looks like from the outside or what you hear about it.” said Arar. “Maybe that's related to my story; I learned the lesson the hard way.”

Arar, a man who never lost hope, is working to restore the community’s faith in a neighbourhood and its people.

“There’s much more to life than money and wealth. I want to feel like part of the community; I want to give back. I want to be involved. I want to try to have a normal life.”