As Laura Byrne Paquet writes in the opening of her annual real estate roundup (“Where to Buy Now,” page 39), neighbourhoods draw home buyers for a number of reasons — good schools, abundant green space, convenient transportation links — as well as something she calls soul. Paquet gives the example of a downtown wine bar and incorporates a list of attractive amenities for each of the highlighted ’hoods. From museums to parks, gelaterias to brew pubs, these places offer opportunities for people to connect. It’s a new aspect of our real estate feature that I hope you will enjoy.
But perhaps, when it comes to the soul of a space, we have a responsibility to take part in its creation. In last year’s real estate issue, I wrote about second-guessing my own choice to put down roots in the Carlington neighbourhood. For me, transportation — and plenty of parks — won out over the quaintness of Aylmer. But I have a confession: I’ve been sluggish in my approach to fostering my street’s soul.
Blame it on the brutal winter or my hectic schedule, but the fact of the matter is, I don’t know my area very well. The reality hit me when I started to consider schools. Soon my daughter will be entering junior kindergarten, and I am faced with the realization that the names of nearby schools mean nothing to me. Sure, I troll the internet looking for information on school districts and boundaries of the ’hood I drive through every day. Instead, I need to be talking with other parents and people involved in the community. Because I can’t trust statistics to tell me the strengths and weaknesses of a school — and besides, these are the people who will inevitably play a role in my child’s future.
At the end of the day, great neighbourhoods don’t come prepackaged; people who live there — and have decided to take an active role in their future — craft them. These community leaders spend their evenings meeting over tea and agendas and channelling concerns about their streets into actionable items. I lived in Hintonburg once and joined a few committees. But I also watched the neighbourhood parade of dog walkers and bottle collectors gather at my neighbour’s corner, talking about store closures and street signs, new cafés and construction sites. Community building comes in many forms. So wherever you move — or live right now — it’s up to you to look for hints of soul and fuel them with your own vision of what your ’hood is all about. And this time of year, as we’re out tending gardens and putting up birdhouses, is perfect for wandering over to the fence and checking in with a neighbour.
Plus: If you have been following the challenges facing the National Gallery of Canada — namely, decreased visitors and the rising costs of international exhibitions — then you will be excited to learn more about Katerina Atanassova (“The Katerina Factor,” page 24). The new curator of Canadian art organized a 2011 exhibit at the McMichael that saw a 200 percent increase in attendance, an estimated 80 percent of whom were first-timers to the Kleinburg, Ontario, gallery. She’s knowledgeable, passionate, and fearless, and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for the National Gallery.
Coming up: Our Summer issue will see the publication of the winning stories in our first fiction contest, the return of cheap eats — an always popular collection of affordable edibles — and a revealing look at our relationship with skin.
Bilingualism on stage at the NAC
A rainforest in Smiths Falls
Election chatter by Mark Bourrie
The Ottawa Marathon, from start to finish
by Matt Harrison
The Medium and the Message
by Paul Gessell
The Katerina Factor
Katerina Atanassova is the new curator of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada.
With knowledge, passion, and bravery, she is bound to impress critics and audiences alike
By Paul Gessell
Photography by Tony Fouhse
Riding a Clear Round
Ottawa’s Shirley Thomas smashed through the glass ceiling on horseback in the 1950s.
The legendary equestrian talks about the thrill of the sport, breaking down gender barriers, and the triumph in soaring over obstacles
By Janet Uren
Photography by Julie Oliver
Beauty of The Beast
Hanging out with the horses at Wesley Clover Parks
By Hattie Klotz
Photography by David Kawai
The Real Estate Issue: Where to Buy Now
Ready to shop? Here are 10 neighbourhoods that are ready for their close-up
By Laura Byrne Paquet
Photography by Dwayne Brown
Most Wanted: Backyard Bliss
My Look: Alexander Shelley on style + the symphony
Shop Talk: Garden-party garb
Great Space: A designer home in Wellington West
Quest: Coriander Seed
City Bites: Notable restaurant and food happenings
High Spirits: Flair bartender Steve Benson on the art of the toss
Capital pint: The ultimate craft- beer run
• Spotlight on North & Navy, plus three new restaurant reviews
• What to see at Ontario Scene
• Paul Gessell’s picks in See, Hear, Read
Fire Walk With Me by Dan Rubinstein