IN THE SHADOW OF POWER
You’re probably thinking: Isn’t Lowertown noisy? Aren’t parts of it sketchy? Isn’t it all tiny studio apartments in condo towers? And how can one of Ottawa’s best-known neighbourhoods be considered an enclave?
They’re valid questions. And you can toss them all to the wind once you’ve ventured north of St. Patrick Street. Sure, there are still a few houses in poor repair scattered throughout the two dozen blocks bounded by St. Patrick Street, King Edward Avenue, and Sussex Drive. But you’ll also find lovingly restored 19th-century workers’ cottages, big luxury apartments, brick semis from the early 1900s, and a range of other housing types. At the northern tip of the neighbourhood, a little playground called Cathcart Park seems more like a village green than something you’d find a 10-minute walk from the ByWard Market bar district. The locals here have some pretty tony neighbours, including several embassies and the National Gallery of Canada.
OREB code: 4001
Boundaries: St. Patrick Street, King Edward Avenue, Sussex Drive
Low/high listings, March 2013: Two-bedroom condo apartment with ensuite laundry, 222 Guigues Ave., Suite 403, $279,900; two-bedroom condo corner apartment with hardwood floors and gourmet kitchen, 205 Bolton St., Suite 211, $499,900
If not here, then: The Golden Triangle, wedged between Elgin Street and the Rideau Canal, has a similar vibe — like Lowertown, it’s near trendy bars and restaurants, and it’s even closer to downtown offices for commuters who like to walk.
BETWEEN RIVER AND CANAL
Brantwood Park and Old Ottawa East
An enclave within an enclave, Brantwood Park welcomes visitors with its own stone gates, built in the 1910s. This tiny ’hood, bounded by Clegg Avenue, Main Street, and the Rideau River, offers easy access to the river and the parklands surrounding Saint Paul University. The only hitch is that it’s so small, few of the charming pre-war houses are for sale at any one time.
But not to worry — the greater Old Ottawa East neighbourhood is equally attractive and surprisingly diverse. On the other side of Main Street, you’ll find similar pre-war houses near the Rideau Canal. On the north side, posh condos line Echo Drive. The area around Greenfield and Lees avenues is a mixed bag, with pretty infill condos, huge apartment blocks (some of them a bit dodgy), gentrified detached houses, and handyman specials. Neighbourhood amenities include Lady Evelyn Alternative School, Immaculata High School, and the Brantwood Park Field House with its ice rink, basketball court, and other recreational goodies.
OREB codes: 4405 (Brantwood Park), 4406, 4407, and 4408 (rest of Old Ottawa East)
Boundaries (all of Old Ottawa East): Riverdale Avenue, Main Street, Rideau River, Queensway, Echo Drive
Low/high listings, March 2013: Two-bedroom condo row house, 130A Greenfield Ave., $346,900; three-bedroom condo overlooking canal, 111 Echo Dr., Suite 502, $2,995,000 Brantwood Park: Three-bedroom single, 100 Marlowe Cres., $625,000 (only one in Brantwood Park for sale)
Added bonus: The tiny retail strip along Main Street is home to some unique shops and services, including 3 Trees (jewellery, clothing, and gifts from India, Nepal, and elsewhere), Singing Pebble Books (women’s studies, alternative health, and other topics), an old-fashioned-style pharmacy, and a vegetarian restaurant.
BETWEEN THE BRIDGES
Old Ottawa South
For Ottawa, this neighbourhood has old roots. One of the city’s first roads was cut through it in 1815, and the house at 96 Southern Drive was built a decade or so later (though it is much altered today). But things didn’t really take off until the Bank Street Bridge opened in 1912, followed by a streetcar line. Waves of suburbanites followed, and many of their lovingly preserved brick homes — replete with porches, stained-glass windows, and hardwood floors — remain.
Today OOS has a bit of an unfair reputation as a BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything) hotbed. And, yes, some locals will protest the mowing of a blade of heritage grass. But others have justly fought several spectacularly insensitive infill developments. Amenities such as the repertory Mayfair Theatre, riverside parks, shopping, and the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club initially attract homebuyers, but what keeps many here is the community vibe. Almost every block seems to have an annual clambake, progressive dinner, or street party.
OREB codes: 4403 and 4404
Boundaries: Bronson Avenue, Rideau River, Main Street, Riverdale Avenue, Echo Drive/Rideau Canal
Low/high listings, March 2013: Three-storey three-bedroom semi-detached, 68 Brighton Ave., $499,900; new Barry Hobin semi-detached, 860A Colonel By Dr., $1,750,000
If not here, then: Wellington Village, which has houses of similar vintage (many a bit newer), a busy retail strip, and the Great Canadian Theatre Company.
You can’t get much more of an enclave than this — just 11 streets, tucked away on a sloping site fringed by parkland and a lake. Given how scenic it is today, it’s hard to believe this corner of Ottawa was once known as Dow’s Great Swamp. Colonel John By and his Rideau Canal-building engineers flooded the wetland in the 1820s and 1830s, creating picturesque, pond-sized Dow’s Lake (now a perfect spot for skating in winter and kayaking or pedal boating come summer).
Expect to pay seven figures for a big pre-war house close to the water. On the northern and eastern fringes of the neighbourhood, you’ll find a range of condo apartment buildings. If you want an older house, are on a budget, and don’t mind a lot of street noise, decent properties along Bronson Avenue sometimes come up for sale. This charming enclave is close to Little Italy, the Glebe, and Carleton University, with good access to the Queensway, downtown, and the airport.
OREB code: 4501
Boundaries: Carling Avenue, Bronson Avenue, Queen Elizabeth Driveway
Low/high listings, March 2013: One-bedroom Domicile condo apartment with den, 808 Bronson Ave., Suite 301, $369,900; four-bedroom single-family house with 100-foot frontage, 35 Dow’s Lake Rd., $1,455,000
If not here, then: The northeast corner of the Glebe, particularly Monkland Avenue, Linden Terrace, and Clemow Avenue, has similarly grand houses. Nice condo blocks overlook the Rideau Canal a few blocks away. Both offer easy access to the parklands along the canal and Patterson Creek.
HIPPER THAN THE HIP
Sure, Hintonburg has been praised to death in the past few years. Its much-anticipated renaissance has finally come to pass, in large part because of the tireless efforts of local residents to tackle crime. Gentrification has been going full blast for the past few years, with pawnshops and bingo halls giving way to trendy bistros, bike shops, and at least one cupcake store. It now markets itself as the QUAD (Quartier des artistes/Arts District).
In 1893, when most of present-day Ottawa was swamp and farmland, this neighbourhood just west of downtown was already an incorporated village. You can still find a few century-old houses peppered among a growing thicket of infill houses and trendy condos.
Wedged between Chinatown and Wellington Village, Hintonburg is a food-lovers’ dream: browse for lychee fruit on Somerset Street or organic beets in the Parkdale Market. If house prices are too steep in South Hintonburg, try north of Wellington in the area bordering Mechanicsville — it’s a bit cheaper and grittier.
OREB code: 4203
Boundaries: Parkdale Avenue, Wellington Street/Somerset Street West, the O-Train line and the Queensway
Low/high listings, March 2013: Older two-bedroom semi with original kitchen but some other upgrades, 49 Melrose Ave., $309,900; two-bedroom loft condo with 12-foot ceilings and granite kitchen counters, 19 Melrose Ave., Suite 107, $654,900
Added bonus: The ’hood has its own theatre company, Chamber Theatre Hintonburg, which performs at the Carleton Tavern.