Read the full Where to Buy Now feature online or in the Real Estate 2018 print issue of Ottawa Magazine
Long a favourite with day trippers exploring the Gatineau Hills, this picturesque Outaouais village has been laying new foundations for growth. In 2012, a community centre/arena opened. Four years later, the municipality finished building a $26-million waste-water and potable-water system.
Because of projects such as these, growth has obligingly materialized. “As soon as we put in water and sewage, you see, it took the cap off development,” says Stephen Woodley, volunteer president of a land trust called Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment (ACRE).
The 300-unit Hendrick Farm housing development, clustered around an organic farm, is just one of several construction projects changing the face of the community of 6,900 people. Will all this activity destroy Chelsea’s relatively pristine environment, one of the key things that draws buyers in the first place?
Development “has been a source of significant controversy for the community,” says Woodley. Over the past decade, the village has seen both a cancelled referendum and a tense election (the pro-development incumbent defeated an anti-development challenger). However, efforts to draw people on all sides together are also proceeding. For instance, ACRE has been working closely with a wide range of players to help preserve Chelsea’s natural spaces, including the corridors animals use to travel between Gatineau Park and the Gatineau River.
Unlike the other neighbourhoods in this list, Old Chelsea isn’t particularly walkable unless you live right in the village core, where you can stroll to restaurants, gift shops, and a farmers’ market. On the opposite side of Highway 5, there’s a dental practice, a veterinary clinic, a grocery store, and other necessities. However, most residents will likely want a car, if only to get to Gatineau (eight minutes away in good traffic) or Ottawa (15 minutes). Don’t want to drive? Transcollines provides primarily commuter-oriented bus service between Chelsea and downtown Hull.
What’s For Sale?*
400, rte. 105
2-storey, 5-bedroom, 1 bath house
Walk Score: 29
Transit Score: 0
Bike Score: N/A
Meet the Neighbours: Average household income $165,277
59, ch. de la Solitude
2-storey, 5-bedroom, 3-bath house
Walk Score: 0
Transit Score: 21
Meet the Neighbours: Median age 47; 35% of residents are 55 or over
35, ch. Nordik
2-storey, 6-bedroom, 3-bath house
Walk Score: 23
Transit Score: 0
Meet the Neighbours: Average household income $147,422; 53% English, 41% French, 3% Allophone
*These listings may no longer be available and should be used as a range of what is potentially available in this neighbourhood
Chelsea Pub, 238, ch. Old Chelsea
This cozy spot has been around since 1875. Back in the day, it probably didn’t serve craft beers, squash ravioli, or spinach-and-smoked-salmon salad, but if you’re a traditionalist, you can get comfort food such as duck rillettes and onion soup too. The tree-shaded patio is packed most summer evenings.
Chelsea Freshmart, 528, rte. 105
Locals don’t have to drive to Gatineau for meat, organic greens, soy milk, or Ace Bakery baguettes. This supermarket sells all the basics for a decent dinner, including beer, wine, and local goodies (Les Fougères frozen meals, La Brûlerie coffee). You can even buy firewood and drop off your dry cleaning.
La Fab Arts Centre, 212, ch. Old Chelsea
For a small community, Chelsea has a lot of painters, potters, and other artistic types. Many are featured in exhibitions at La Fab, which also hosts yoga sessions, rents out artists’ studios, and runs a boutique. A farmers’ market takes place in the centre’s front yard from spring through fall.
A bank. Curiously, while Chelsea has everything from a library to a small Rona, it has no bank or caisse populaire. The nearest choices are in Wakefield or Gatineau.
Meet the Neighbours
manager, City of Ottawa public art program
Home: Two-storey house built in 1948 that’s been renovated twice, in an area referred to as Tenaga.
Years in the ’hood: 12.
Why she moved there: Happy childhood memories of the area. “My mom put an ad in the Citizen looking for a cottage. The farmer who owned the land responded, and she went up in the middle of the winter and saw this little shack of a cabin and said, ‘Great.’ Those rich summers we spent at the cottage — playing outdoors with friends and that freedom you have as a kid roasting marshmallows and chasing fireflies.” In 1996, Julie bought a house on the same street as the family cottage, and she’s been living there ever since.
Favourite shop: The Dépanneur M&R. “When I was a kid, it was there. It hasn’t changed in the 50-plus years since I’ve been around. We used to go for spruce beer. It’s a mom-and-pop shop with a casse-croûte on the side, and it carries the Sunday Times and this amazing selection of baked goods.”
Favourite public space: Gatineau Park
What’s missing: A cultural centre. Not too long ago, Chelsea built the Meredith Centre — a community centre with a rink — but Julie says there have not been a lot of opportunities there. “It wasn’t built to have a theatre … and there’s a lot of creative people in Chelsea, artists who have their studios here because it’s affordable.” Additionally, she cites the lack of a medical clinic. “I also dream of things like a Thai takeout place!”
Looking ahead: “It was cottage country — it’s not so much anymore. There’s going to be even more change in the next few years,” she says, citing the Hendrick Farm and Chelsea Creek residential developments, the hotel at Nordik Spa-Nature, and more development around St. Stephan’s church. “If taxes go up, it may make it difficult for people who live here to afford to stay here … It’s the conundrum every city faces: is there a balance that can be achieved so that you’re not pricing it outside of anyone’s ability to live there while maintaining the essence of that community which originally attracted people to live there in the first place?”