This article first appeared in the September issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.
The core is in the midst of a dramatic renewal as Ottawa transforms from big town to small city.
Ottawa Magazine visits the people who are flourishing in revitalized downtown neighbourhoods
By SARAH BROWN
They met while living in neighbouring apartments in the ByWard Market. Both loved the urban lifestyle; both were determined to minimize their dependence on cars. Nine years ago, when Julia Leonard and Tom Megginson began looking for a larger space to accommodate their family of three, they discovered what Tom describes as “the ideal urban neighbourhood.” Lindenlea is a leafy enclave tucked away between Rockcliffe Park (to the north and east), Vanier (to the south), and New Edinburgh (to the west).
Here, front porches and modest lots encourage interaction among residents. “You want to like your neighbours,” says Tom, “because they’re right there with you.” Indeed, in 2011 when Julia and Tom renovated their shared back deck (they live in a semi-detached house), they shared costs with their neighbour and opted to leave the entire space open so that the families could mingle between sides.
Names: Julia Leonard and Tom Megginson (plus Jack, 9)
Occupations: Julia is a teacher at Elgin Street Public School; Tom is creative director at Acart Communications
Home: Semi-detached red brick, circa 1927
Previous home: The couple met while living in the ByWard Market in neighbouring apartments
Tom: Not being car-dependent is huge to us. We can both walk to work, and we can walk downtown. We love the idea of everything we need being in walkable distance.
What drew you to this neighbourhood?
Tom: We were determined to live in the downtown area, so we drew a circle around ByWard Market to determine how far south, west, and east we were willing to go. We wanted to be able to walk or bus to work in Centretown. We didn’t think we could afford this neighbourhood, but we got lucky. It was winter, and the garden wasn’t looked after at all, so the house was, in a sense, discounted.
Julia: I knew the neighbourhood well because I used to be a substitute teacher so got to see lots of areas of the city.
What other neighbourhoods were you eyeing?
Tom: This was the fourth house we bid on. We had already bid on houses in Centretown, the Glebe, and the Market.
Why this house?
Tom: I like older houses. I grew up in the older suburbs of Kingston, but a lot of my friends lived in century homes downtown. They had hardwood floors and bookshelves and Persian rugs. I loved that look, and this house has that feeling. I appreciate its character.
Julia: We were looking for a house in which we could stay forever. This is that house, so we’ve renovated as we can.
Tom: All the new parts. We collaborated with Emma Doucet to renovate the kitchen and bathroom last fall. Three years ago we renovated the back deck. It’s up high, so we can have a carport underneath. Our front and back decks are like having two outdoor rooms.
Julia: Sitting on the front deck is how we got to know all our neighbours.
Tom: Everyone is social because they hang out in the front. It’s a chance to stop, have a glass of wine, and talk.
Tom: The basement bathroom is like a museum from the 1980s.
Julia: The bedrooms are pretty small, but it is what it is.
Biggest challenges to living in this neighbourhood?
Tom: Street parking can be an issue when friends come to visit. Crime is a concern, but the benefit of living one on top of another is that neighbours look out for each other.
Tom: Not being car-dependent is huge to us. We can both walk to work, and we can walk downtown. We love the idea of everything we need being walkable distance.
How long do you plan to stay?
Julia: We plan to be here forever.
Advice to wannabe urban dwellers?
Julia: You have to be comfortable with a smaller house than you’d get in the suburbs.
Tom: You can’t be bothered by noise. We have always preferred the downtown lifestyle, but you have to know what you’re getting into. And if you’re looking at buying an older home, get a good home inspector — there are so many things to find.