15-minute ‘hoods: ByWard Market offers car-free living, culture-rich community

15-minute ‘hoods: ByWard Market offers car-free living, culture-rich community

This article was originally published as part of a series called “15 Minutes to the Future” in the Spring/Summer issue 2021 issue of Ottawa Magazine. Read the opening essay “The 15-Minute Challenge” and other resident profiles here.

Marie-Camille Lalande and Nathan Lemphers ponder the many benefits of raising their children in the ByWard Market.

What do you like about the ‘hood?
Nathan: It’s close to everything. It’s extremely walkable; we don’t have a car and don’t want one. There’s everything we need — grocery stores, schools, lots of green space, museums, and galleries.
Marie-Camille: This neighbourhood is very close to my family; my great-grandfather had shops on Dalhousie and my mom was born nearby and grew up here. For me, it felt like I was coming back to my roots. It absolutely reflects my French Canadian background. Being with my kids on the playground and hearing other families speaking French; chit-chats [in French] with the local clerks happens constantly. Almost every other person in the neighbourhood speaks French or is a francophile or appreciates French.
Nathan: I love the diversity of the neighbourhood… We both grew up in the suburbs, which were fairly homogenous, but here, it’s different ethnicities, different backgrounds, including socioeconomic backgrounds, and it’s nice to see that all together here in a pretty small community. 

What don’t you like about the ‘hood?
Marie-Camille: If we were to open our windows what you would hear is King Edward. Rumbling! It’s loud and stinky during rush hour. It’s when the big trucks slow down and accelerate. It’s just a road, but it feels like a huge divide between accessing the river or the beautiful parks on the east side of King Edward. Especially when you see pictures of King Edward 100 years ago, when it was tree-lined and had a creek running down the middle.
Nathan: It’s an inter-provincial highway going through a residential neighbourhood. There’s heavy traffic. I cross it twice a day with the kids in tow, and it’s scary, because you never know when a big truck is going to run a red light, which has happened.

Marie-Claire Lalonde and Nathan Lemphers have lived in the ByWard Market area for four years. Photo by Marc Fowler / Metropolis Studio

Your neighbourhood has a high concentration of resources for the homeless population. How do you feel about that?
Marie-Camille: To be honest, it’s not really a concern. For us, we see them as our neighbours…. Some neighbours would [lay] blame in certain situations to that population, but I think those things happen in other neighbourhoods too. If a bicycle got stolen — we can’t say it’s them for sure. There’s no proof. Bicycles get stolen in the suburbs all the time; trash gets rummaged through all the time. For us, [the homeless population] is not an issue. 

Will you stay in this area to raise your kids?
Nathan: We’re at a crossroads right now. We’re within striking distance of owning a home, but prices go up faster than we can save… and so we’re looking to potentially move across the river into Gatineau where houses are less expensive, but they’re not the same types of neighbourhoods as Lowertown. 

What changes have you seen since living in the Market?
Marie-Camille: One thing I’m concerned about is tearing down the Metro grocery store on Rideau and putting up a condo tower. Where are all those folks going to buy their food? I’m all for density, but we still need to have basic needs met, such as food. Nicastro is great, but you can’t do all your grocery shopping there. And there needs to be different price points for groceries. We can’t all shop at Farm Boy.
Nathan: We do have a [farmers’] market in the summer months, and they’ve really worked to bring in more local producers. One thing that has changed was that during the pandemic the amount of people using outdoor spaces really increased. Major’s Hill Park has become Ottawa’s Trinity Bellwoods – it’s just filled with people. It’s become a scene.
Marie-Camille: Whereas before COVID, you had a handful of people sprinkled throughout [Major’s Hill].
Nathan: Also, I can now do cross country skiing from my front door. The Rideau Trail system is groomed; they have better machines now; and more people are using the trails.

What changes would you like to see in your neighbourhood?
Marie-Camille: King Edward!
Nathan: They’ve been discussing what to do about the traffic ever since they put in that highway; a tunnel or another bridge through to Aviation Parkway would be great and solve the problem.
Marie-Camille: It doesn’t make sense to have a highway splitting the city in two.
Nathan: Other cities like Montreal and Boston have buried highways. There’s different solutions to create more vibrant downtowns.