Are you looking for a quiet, family-friendly neighbourhood in downtown Ottawa? Consider Old Ottawa East, a tree-filled neighbourhood between the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River.
Old Ottawa East centres around Ottawa’s Main Street. It is the area south of the University of Ottawa, Ontario, east of the Rideau Canal and West of the Ottawa River. The southern boundary is Avenue Road.
In terms of driving, the 417 highway runs through Old Ottawa East. The highway is accessible via Nicholas and Lees, but the Lees on-ramp is closed until 2018 due to the widening of the 417. Old Ottawa East is very walkable but a little disconnected from more central areas across the canal. The Pretoria Bridge offers great access to Elgin Street and the Bank Street Bridge provides access to Lansdowne Park, but there are currently no other access points in between. This means a long circular walk to get to the Glebe. However, a new mid-town footbridge is planned to join Clegg Street to Fifth Avenue. Once built, this will greatly improve the area for pedestrians.
There are no supermarkets in Old Ottawa East, but there is a Loblaws just across the Pretoria Bridge. Old Ottawa East is a great place to consider if you are looking for downtown living without giving up on community. Check it out!
Old Ottawa East is primarily made up of houses, with some low-rise apartments and condominiums. The exception is Lees Avenue, at the far edge of Old Ottawa East. There you will find a cluster of high-rise apartment buildings. There is a wide range of houses and condominiums in Old Ottawa East. Most expensive are the luxury condos on Echo Drive, overlooking the Rideau Canal.
Cycling, running and inline skating are very popular in Old Ottawa East. There is the Rideau Canal Eastern Pathway and the neighbourhood is also one of the key downtown areas for Sunday Bike Days. On Sunday mornings from May to September, Colonel By Drive is closed to motorized traffic, allowing families to take to the streets on their bikes. There is a nature path along the Rideau River. Eventually, this is to become the Rideau River Western Pathway and will connect to the city’s extensive pathway network. Skating on the famous Rideau Canal Skateway is also popular. This is one of the few areas in the city where you can actually skate to work in the winter if you work in Centretown, or in Little Italy. Ultimate Frisbee is one of Ottawa’s key sporting activities and the city’s most central playing fields are all in Old Ottawa East. Brantwood Park offers tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and a basketball court. There is also a wading pool, a field house, and in winter, an outdoor ice rink. A new small gym has also opened on Main Street. There are also a few bicycle repair shops on Hawthorne Avenue.
Main Street has a quirky, wholesome character that combines granola and spirituality. A key feature is The Green Door, one of Ottawa’s most popular vegetarian restaurants. There is also the Green Door Grocer, a small grocery store that focuses on local and organic produce and a vast variety of grains that you can buy in bulk.
Much of Main Street is occupied by Saint-Paul University, which descends from the original College of Bytown (1848). Saint-Paul is closely tied to the University of Ottawa, but maintains its Catholic heritage. The bilingual university specializes in theology, canon law, philosophy and counselling. During the summer, there is a Farmer’s Market held at Saint-Paul’s every Saturday.
Singing Pebble Books is also on Main Street and offers a unique collection of books related to spirituality, psychology, philosophy and more. Next door, the 3 Trees shop sells imports from India and Nepal, such as singing bowls, arts and crafts, jewelry, and Indian cotton clothes.
Rounding out the heart of Main Street is Watson’s Pharmacy and Compounding Centre, which brings to mind a traditional community-based apothecary. Aside from The Green Door, there aren’t many restaurants in the neighbourhood. There is a Royal Oak directly overlooking the Rideau Canal by the Pretoria Bridge, as well as a few cafes and takeout locations. There are, however, many options nearby on Elgin Street and in the Glebe.
Old Ottawa East is a quiet, family-friendly neighbourhood with an active Community Activities Group. Schools in the neighbourhood include Lady Evelyn Alternative School (junior kindergarten to grade 6) and two Catholic high schools: Immaculata High School and St. Nicholas Adult High School. For young children, there is the Riverside Montessori Pre-School and the Rainbow Kidschool. Saint-Paul University is in the heart of Old Ottawa East, and the University of Ottawa is just North of the neighbourhood.
Where Old Ottawa East falls short is public transportation. It is a wonderful area for commuting by bike or on foot, but commuting can be a challenge in winter because bus options are limited. The 5 is the primary bus through the neighbourhood and it is not always reliable. It leads to downtown Ottawa via Elgin Street and runs infrequently outside of rush hour. The 16 also runs through part of the neighbourhood, but the bus route is very limited to what it used to be. The high-rises on Lees Avenue, a popular area for students, are by contrast very well connected. Lees is a main transitway station that connects to everywhere in the city. It will also be part of the new Confederation light rail line which is set to open in 2017-2018. The University of Ottawa transit station is also an option for those in the area closest to the university.