Old Ottawa South Neighbourhood
Old Ottawa South (OOS) is a vibrant urban community in the heart of Canada's capital of Ottawa with a population of approximately 3,000 households (about 10,000 residents). The area developed as an early suburb at the turn of the last century, and was annexed by the City in 1907.
Growth proceeded quickly and by the mid-1920s, it was a full-fledged neighbourhood, and most of the solid red brick and clapboard homes are still lovingly maintained. Growth is continuing to this day, as appropriate infill becomes the clarion call to keep Ottawa's urban boundary contained and the downtown healthy—without losing the City's urban lungs or its famous front porches to asphalt and garage doors.
The community is defined by its waterways. Old Ottawa South is bounded on the north by the World Heritage Rideau Canal, and on the south and east by the Rideau River as it winds its way north to spill into the Ottawa River. Carleton University forms its western boundary, adding an academic flair to the character of the neighbourhood. (Boundaries are formalized by the City.)
Bank Street runs as a traditional main street spine through its centre, offering a variety of retail options from cafés, restaurants, and toy stores, to second-hand clothing and antiques, as well as fine take-out, catering, and kitchen stores. Moreover, it's all within walking distance for locals, with good parking for visitors. There are approx. 40+ retail establishments and many home-based businesses, employing hundreds.
The population is a mix of older residents who've lived here for years and young families who like the quality of the schools and recreational options. There is a substantial university student population, who liven up the streets each September when they shop the annual Porch Sale to furnish their new digs.
There are several excellent parks that preserve nature on the river and provide good fun for children and dogs; local volunteers are proactive in helping maintain them and keeping them clean and safe.
Children's play areas, water parks, skating rinks, and a local indoor pool are also part of the mix. Just to the north over the bridge, is the city's “Jewel in the Crown”, Lansdowne Park, with its 1898 Aberdeen Pavilion and its “all local” farmers’ market, which will be entering a new phase of redevelopment in 2011–13.
(Material used with permission from www.oldottawasouth.ca "About")
Old Ottawa South is an exceptional neighbourhood!
Residents here are committed to the principles of walkability and environmental sustainability; are involved in a great many active, and spiritually nourishing activities (great churches, spiritual schools); and make great use of the outdoors with the rivers, canal, and parks both within and nearby. Many residents actively participate as volunteers and coaches, and some neighbourhoods hold annual events to celebrate their own uniqueness, such as the Brighton Beach Clam Bake and the Pansy Avenue block party.
The area is well serviced by transit, and there are “VirtuCars” available for those who need occasional wheels but wish to respect the environment by not owning a car.
It has a charming, sustainable, walkable character of older homes with friendly front porches; great main street diversity and shopping; has a terrific, newly-renovated community centre and community association that is very active in both recreational opportunities and wider city issues (particularly, appropriate urban development); excellent schools; several active and well-attended spiritual centres and churches; is bounded by the World Heritage Site Rideau Canal and Skateway; excellent local transit; close to two great universities, Carleton University and University of Ottawa; terrific parks, with arena, outdoor speed skating oval, indoor swimming pool; dog walks; and Rideau River trails with great opportunity for spotting wildlife. Social events are regular, well attended, and fun: Lobster dinners, Havana Night dance parties, and Fall and Winter festivals for families. The old time movie venue the Mayfair Theatre was recently saved from demolition. Churches host frequent Writers' festival readings and concerts.
The diversity of its residents range from old to young, generations born here, to new Canadians.
Residents themselves are a mainstay in making and keeping this neighbourhood great. Emphasis is on walkability, engagement in community, and sustainability. For example, work is on to get a community garden going, and residents have a no-plastics initiative. There are small, informal groups who walk and cycle, form carol groups at Christmas, informal garden groups, and amateur piano performance club. There's a tennis and lawn bowling club, with recently added beach volleyball, too.
The Old Ottawa South Community Association (OSCA) is the hub of the community and has been instrumental in creating and maintaining the sense of a local village and cohesive neighbourhood. The association recently spent a decade of fundraising to save the Old Firehall and renovate it into a small but state-of-the-art community centre with great recreational programs and facilities. They have recently added a cardio fitness centre, kitchen and party room, as well as rooms for yoga and pottery.
The OSCA is very active, organizing hugely popular programs and special events that serve to strengthen community bonds. OSWatch, OSCA's committee on planning and development, is hard at work helping businesses develop and maintain their uniqueness and success, and is very involved in citywide issues of sustainability and appropriate urban intensification, helping to curtail urban sprawl into the lovely greenbelt and fine farmland that surrounds Ottawa. OSWatch co-chairs Brendan McCoy and Graham Deline, and OSCA president Michael Jenkin are all making great contributions.
There are several terrific schools, and the Hopewell Avenue Public School is especially community-active with bake and bike sales, annual get-togethers for families, sports-oriented activities, and the school makes their gym and playgrounds available for events and just “kicking the ball around” after school.
Old Ottawa South is the home of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, in a beautifully maintained heritage convent. The Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library is one of the most active in the city and has very enriching educational programs—it recently expanded to include meeting rooms and more. Great staff, outstanding services.
The Planning Department at the City of Ottawa is working hard to help. Alain Miguelez and Selma Hassan in particular are revising Urban Infill Guidelines toward protecting our unique “village,” and the other threatened inner-city neighbourhoods, too. They are doing a standup job trying to make sure the neighbourhood maintains its unique character and they strive to improve it.
The initial role of planners is lost in time (see above), but it is certain that they worked hard to make an attractive, early “suburb” for Ottawa, when they extended the streetcar line over the Rideau Canal and built an equal mixture of worker's homes, sturdy, middle-class red bricks, and mansions overlooking the canal and the Colonel By promenade that dignitaries take into town from the airport nowadays (including the President of the United States!)
Currently, City of Ottawa planners are working hard to keep intensification appropriate to the character of the neighbourhood, and are working to redevelop infill guidelines and zoning changes that will help to ensure that the character of this beloved community is not destroyed by overbuild and inappropriate urban development. There is potential for a Heritage Overlay that planners also are working to support.
As one of only a handful of “inner city” neighbourhoods with great character in Ottawa, it's very important that Old Ottawa South be maintained as a vibrant urban village—not just for its residents, but for the whole city of Ottawa. It is a great place for tourists, suburbanites, local students, and others to come and enjoy the unique shopping, the great parks, the restaurants, and the friendliness and openness of the residents.
I nominate this great little “village” neighbourhood in the heart of Ottawa as one of THE Great Places in Canada—to live in OR visit!