Old Ottawa East is getting a decidedly new vibe, and it’s drawing an influx of new residents.
The neighbourhood, established in 1888 a 15-minute walk from the Byward Market, has been revitalized with a refreshed Main Street over the past three years by the arrival of two major residential projects from Domicile Developments and eQ Homes.
Retired teachers John and Mary-Lou Ferguson recently sold their townhome in Orléans – about 20 minutes east of Ottawa’s downtown core – and bought a new place 10 seconds from the Rideau Canal.
“Honestly, we jumped on this one so quickly … in less time than it takes us to make a grocery list,” Mr. Ferguson said.
Raphael Lessard, 21, just bought his first investment property in the Domicile project. It’s a 300-square-foot microunit (made popular in Toronto and Vancouver but now having their moment in Ottawa) and he rents it out for $1,100 a month. He says he couldn’t be happier.
“If you think of the ripple effect for the Old Ottawa East region especially with downtown being so close … it’s definitely the next up-and-coming neighbourhood,” said Mr. Lessard, a medical student at the University of Ottawa.
Construction on Main Street – the main thoroughfare through Old Ottawa East – began in 2015 and finished late last year, turning the neighbourhood into a more pedestrian and bike-friendly area. Domicile and eQ Homes began construction on their two projects – the Corners on Main and Greystone Village – around the same time.
There are only 15 units left for sale out of 136 units on the Corners on Main project, according to David Chick, the vice-president of sales and marketing for Domicile. The second phase is under construction now, which will include 15,000 square feet of retail space.
David Wallace, the chief operating officer of Regional Group Realty Inc., parent company of eQ Homes, says eQ has done approximately $200-million in residential sales at Greystone, a 26-acre master planned community with a first phase to be completed this fall.
Geoff Walker, a sales representative with the Walker Real Estate Group at Re/Max Absolute Realty Inc., says Old Ottawa East is still coming onto the radar in Ottawa and will grow in popularity.
The Ottawa Real Estate Board reports the average sale price for a home in Old Ottawa East through July is up 21 per cent year over year.
Days on market for residential properties in July was just 10 days (12 days in June) and all properties sold last month took in multiple offers.
“Once the [new] communities are complete, it’s going to be a complete transformation. For someone that bikes, walks, is active … you have access now to everything,” he explained, classifying Old Ottawa East as basically a subdivision of downtown.
“It’s rare to see a community built in the downtown core. Downtown needed to have something along the lines of a subdivision … and [the neighbourhood] provides everything.”
Mr. Ferguson says he and his wife were looking for almost six years before they landed on their three-bedroom, three-bathroom row home. It’s mere minutes from a new pedestrian bridge being built over the Rideau Canal, connecting Old Ottawa East with the new Lansdowne Park.
Mr. Ferguson and his wife knew about the Old Ottawa East but never in their “wildest dreams” did they think they could live directly on the Rideau Canal.
They looked very seriously at the new condos going up on Main Street, calling them “gorgeous” developments, but this home was too good to pass up – especially considering what’s to come in the neighbourhood.
The couple are big football fans and the opportunity to walk to watch the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks at Lansdowne Park is a thrill he never thought he’d have.
“It’s ‘died and gone to heaven’ for us,” he says.
The new pedestrian bridge is set to be a game-changer for the community, according to Phyllis Odenbach Sutton, the president of the Old Ottawa East Community Association.
She says the community isn’t as worried about people leaving Old Ottawa East to get to the Glebe, one of Ottawa’s most posh areas, but instead is excited for people to come back their way.
“Certainly the neighbourhood is growing a lot,” she explained.
Businesses are feeling very positive about the changes, according to Ms. Odenbach Sutton, and the association has been working with the developers to make sure the new retail shops that do come in are not driving out the successful business they already have.
She says the new developments are going to be “instrumental” for new life in the neighbourhood.
“Everyone realizes this is going to be an area with a lot more people, but they’re not all here yet,” she said. “There is still a lot of construction and development and it’s still a question of who is going to come in.”
Mr. Chick says when the City of Ottawa went through a community design process for Main Street, they decided to convert it to become more complete. The goal was to have better facilities for pedestrians, bikes and cars together and create a “more traditional main street environment.”
Mr. Wallace agrees, saying the Main Street buildings that feature residential plus retail and restaurants will help “bring Main Street back to life.”
The developments are attracting everyone from retired couples such as the Fergusons, to first-time student buyers such as Mr. Lessard, to other individuals and families looking for access to Ottawa’s downtown core.
“This is an old neighbourhood, but it’s all part of transformation,” Mr. Chick said. “Given its location, it’s proximity to downtown and the [Rideau] canal and the river, the schools and the hospitals, the centrality to the whole city … it’s easy to see why it’s really attractive.”