Print Magazine

SEPTEMBER 2014: Living in the Downtown Core

Cover image by Christian Laldone – Photolux Studio.

Gentrification is a loaded word. As Mark Bourrie writes in “Change Is Good?” (page 40), when a neighbourhood goes from gritty to trendy, there are some who do very well and others who lose out. But I’d say there is one thing it’s good for, and that’s opening our eyes to the corner stores, green spaces, and other hidden gems that give an area character. For some people — we’re calling them neo urbanites — those observations shape their lives in fascinating ways. 

It’s precisely this act of taking neighbourhood love to the next level that fuels our 40-page cover story, “Living in the Downtown Core.” From the voices speaking out about gentrification to the people who invited us into their stylish homes, we can’t talk about urban renewal without shining a spotlight on the folks who are behind the movement. That’s why we broke with tradition and featured people on our cover (you can read more about Patrick Hajas and Erin Silsbe, and their beautiful deck in Centretown, in “Family Values,” page 61). In fact, while the “Urban Study” series showcases stunning interiors, the stories are more about how a house works to accommodate the downtown lifestyle and why the inhabitants choose to live where they do. Because it’s people like Patrick and Erin — people who frequent mom-and-pop stores and loiter at the cash to shoot the breeze — who are helping to shape the downtown core. And these so-called neo urbanites are savvy: they know about the power of the purse, and they walk the downtown talk. That’s why they volunteer with community groups, frequent independently owned shops, and walk so much! 

Alan Neal and Jill Zmud walk baby Violet and pug . Photo by Jamie Kronick.
Alan Neal and Jill Zmud walk baby Violet and pug . Photo by Jamie Kronick.

For me, one of the most interesting projects to watch right now is the Bell Street Towers. Apparently it’s one of the city’s oldest apartment buildings, and it’s one of the first places I heard about when my sister moved to Ottawa in the late 1990s. She saw the sign from the highway and, with vacancy rates low and few ties to the city, took a chance. She told some nasty pigeon stories, but she also spoke of the diversity of her fellow tenants, of children playing wildly in the stairwells, of spontaneous clothing swaps in the laundry room. Years later, when I was living in the shadows of the Towers, I came to appreciate the street-level retail. Yes, the pizza at Calabria was pretty good, and that Polish grocer got us through some busy weeks, but it was the familiar faces that made us loyal customers. Like many neighbourhoods in transition, the future of the Bell Towers is unknown. Hopefully, the facelift will allow room for a few blemishes, for it is the gritty details that catch our attention and call us to take part in the act of shaping our city.

I would be remiss if I let this issue go by without noting a big change happening at Ottawa Magazine. Our veteran gossip columnist, the affable and hard-working Michael Prentice, has decided he would rather go on the occasional cruise and spend time with family than track the comings and goings of the upper crust. And because no one can replace Michael when it comes to this sensitive subject matter, we’re welcoming long-time journalist Chris Lackner, who will skewer all levels of government in a new column, “The Jester.” 

Dayanti Karunaratne, editor


Reason to Love: Lusk Cave
Chinatown Museum in FOUND

• Chris Lackner is The Jester
Sarah BrownDoubleSpace at MacOdrum Library

Ottawa Is a Place — the story behind the t-shirt and the city’s civic pride
by Tony Martins

In Tune With the Times at Ottawa Folk Fest
by Chris Lackner

Secrets to Tell
Author Frances Itani mines her family history in new novel
By Paul Gessell

Living in the Downtown Core:
Ottawa’s downtown is changing. It’s moving quickly from a big town
to a small city. These are the people, places, and spaces amid
the core’s changing landscape

Change is Good?
A look at the positives — and the pitfalls — of gentrification
By Mark Bourrie   Photography by Dwayne Brown 

My ’hood, Your ’hood
Newcomers and old-timers dish on favourite haunts
Photography by Tony Fouhse

My Story
Vanier’s orphaned landmark
By Mike Steinhauer

Family life in Little Italy
By Nichole McGill

My Guilt Trip
By David McDonald 

Urban Study
At home with four committed downtowners

A Day in the Life
Minute by minute, hour by hour — at work and play with four urbanites
Photography by Rémi Thériault and Jamie Kronick

Photo by Luther Caverly
Photo by Luther Caverly

Alpaca is the new cashmere. Find it at Magpie Hill.

MY LOOK Talking life + style with Matt Carson


Connecting farm to fork by Shawna Wagman

Quest for raspberries by Cindy Deachman

Plus City Bites — foodie gossip and other juicy bits


David Lawrason picks top Greek wines


Spotlight on Erling’s Variety

New reviews of Ginza Ramen, Mamma Teresa Chelsea Ristorante, and The Rex

Carp Fair, Folk Festival Favourites, plus See, Hear, Read with Paul Gessell


The Examined Space by rob mclennan