CHANGING WITH THE TIMES
If you want to see a community in transition, go for a drive along Revelstoke, just south of Mooney’s Bay. This neighbourhood is changing fast. There was a time in the 1960s and 1970s when this wooded enclave — a small piece of riverside land sandwiched between the Rideau River and Riverside Drive — was recognized as a showcase of modern domestic architecture. Its streets were lined with bungalows and split-level houses, characteristically built of wood or stone, with the flat roofs and picture windows of the era.
In their day, the houses on Revelstoke were substantial and fashionable, belonging mostly to professional people or civil servants. Today those same houses look rather modest and old-fashioned. Not for long. Virtually every house that is sold in this self-contained corner of the city is being replaced with a larger, more modern, and more impressive dwelling. Revelstoke is still fashionable, still leading edge, but it is changing with the times.
OREB code: 4608
Boundaries: Riverside Drive, Revelstoke Drive, Leopolds Drive
Low/high listings, March 2013: Two-bedroom bungalow with hardwood floors and built-in dining room cabinets, 3269 Riverside Dr., $339,900; four-bedroom waterfront house with five fireplaces, private boat dock, home theatre, 3759 Revelstoke Dr., $3,500,000
If not here, then: Utterly different in look and feel, several enclaves running off Prince of Wales Drive south of Hog’s Back Road may satisfy your craving to be close to the river in Ottawa’s inner southern suburbs. There are some pretty post-war bungalows along Melfa Crescent, for instance, and some enormous new houses just south of Melfa in a Campanale development called Prince of Wales on the Rideau.
OASIS OF CALM
As great mega-houses and land-devouring developments mush-room along the east bank of the Rideau River near Manotick, the modest woodland charm of Honey Gables — just a few riverside streets colonized for housing some half century ago — seems almost miraculous. Honey Gables was not a planned community. The neighbourhood is many decades old and was developed by and for individuals. Every house is different, ranging from modest bungalows to a huge, old renovated farmhouse with high gables and verandas. The lots also vary in size. What unites the neighbourhood, however, is its woodland character and tranquil proximity to the river.
The people who developed this area were pioneers in a sense — Ottawa workers who wanted to live beyond city limits and to breathe the fresh air. Today, as housing proliferates along the border of Honey Gables, residents realize with new intensity the value of their tiny, perfect neighbourhood.
OREB code: 2602
Boundaries: River Road, Ryeburn Drive, southern side of Riversedge Crescent
Low/high listings, March 2013 (there was only one house in Honey Gables for sale): Four-bedroom bungalow with wood-burning fireplace in finished basement, 580 River Rd., $479,900
If not here, then: On the city’s western rural fringes, Constance Bay has a similar feeling, with affordable houses and lots of Ottawa River views
Nicolls Island, Manotick
Nicolls Island — a narrow spine of rocks and trees emerging from the Rideau River north of Long Island, Manotick — is unexpected. Cross the tiny bridge at Long Island Locks, follow the road north, and prepare for a surprise. Fifty years ago, this was cottage country. In fact, some cottages remain, though newly faced with brick or siding. But set between these tiny, rustic buildings is a row of newer, bigger houses. Every house — and there are just 20 of them arrayed along the island’s narrow central road — looks down through cedars and pines to the Rideau River below. Only at the northern tip of the island is there any flat land to speak of.
Long Island to the south is larger and better known as an island enclave offering hundreds of houses in pleasing proximity to the lively, civil, and historic town of Manotick. Nicolls Island is tinier, more exclusive, and more delightfully odd.
OREB code: 8001
Boundaries: Island immediately north of Long Island, opposite Maple Hill Park
Low/high listings, March 2013: No listings in March 2013; properties on adjacent Long Island ranged from $309,900 to $1,388,000.
Added bonus: Just because it feels like the countryside doesn’t mean you’re far from urban conveniences: the island is just a five-minute drive from shops, services, and an OC Transpo park-and-ride lot in Riverside South.