Living in Westboro
Westboro, often referred to as Westboro Village, has become Ottawa’s hottest community to call home. Thanks to a trendy urban revitalization and new condominium developments, residential properties and rentals are in high demand.
The community of Westboro is located close to the Ottawa River about 6 kilometres west of Parliament Hill. The location is abundantly supplied with good roads, parkways and highways running east and west that make it easy for residents to go to the downtown core for work or shop and home again in about 20 minutes travel time each way. The bus system called OC Transpo, and the future Confederation O-Train will pass through Westboro on route to the suburbs located beyond the Greenbelt. The Greenbelt was a 1950s planning idea thought to slow down urban sprawl by regulating a 3 kilometre band of no urban development around the city outskirts. The action had unintended results because developers continued to build further out in Barrhaven, Orleans, Kanata and as a result a “green belt” of farm land surrounds the city today. The added commute time for residents living beyond the Greenbelt is a significant factor in their desire to move closer to the downtown core.
Westboro Village is made up of several smaller residential areas known as Highland Park, Hampton Park, Westboro and McKellar Park. The Westboro area starts in the east at Island Park Drive and continues west to about to Sherbourne Avenue. Westboro village was the site of the old Nepean City Hall before amalgamation with the city of Ottawa and today the old stone city hall is repurposed as a vital community center in the middle of the commercial district.
The village grew in popularity and today it celebrates a vibrant and diverse commercial district as well as lovely tree lined streets featuring a mix of early 20th century and post war homes. The older homes are a feature of the community and many residents will say they cherish the uniqueness of older homes over newer construction. A home with a garage is a bonus in Westboro however, only the newly built homes feature the double car garage popular outside the Greenbelt. The Village residents prefer the older, all brick, wood or Arts and Crafts style homes located on wide lots. They like the larger lots and the absence of roadside curbs that invite homeowners to walk in the streets and talk with neighbours. Residents will claim they love the close proximity to numerous resources that save them time and enrich their lives.
When I moved to my present home on Melbourne avenue, Westboro, 35 years ago I had a short list of requirements to help with choosing a community on my House Hunting Trip. It is interesting to reflect back on that house search and see how the criteria has come full circle and influenced my life, my children’s lives and continues to attract people to the community as if it were a recipe for “good living” as Martha Stewart might say. I’ll share the list I wrote 35 years ago. Perhaps it will be helpful to you.
Criteria for a community in which I would like to live (written in 1985)
- Walking distance to the river
- Old growth trees in the neighbourhood
- Village- like feel, walking distance to food stores
- Library and schools, Canadian Tire store nearby
One, sometimes overlooked, highlight of the community is the river shoreline where bicycle trails and walking paths crisscross the full length of the river from Britannia to Parliament Hill. The simple pleasures of watching the sunset, listening to the waves, watching the birds, looking at the big sky or people watching at Westboro Beach are pleasures that “go with location” as is often said in real estate talk. While raising our three children we frequently visited the river to skip stones or search for shells before returning home and starting the bedtime routine.
Many of the communities take their names from the local parks which are frequently shared with schools play grounds. The parks offer tennis courts, lawn bowling, skating rinks, play structures, wading pools and open green space. Dovercourt Community Centre offers resources for everyone and is popular with school age children and parents alike. For many years I sponsored the “Kids Swim Free Fridays” at the Dovercourt pool because I think it is important for children to learn about water safety since we are located so close to the river. Most of the streets don’t have curbs or sidewalks. Lawns and gardens merge with the roads as is often the case in towns and villages. Many residents use their front yards as gardens and this adds to the unique feel. You’ll encounter your neighbours walking in the community when going for a stroll. It’s easy to talk with people when they do the yard work.
Schools and parks are abundant. Some of the oldest and newest school buildings of Ottawa are located in Westboro. Nepean High School is one of the oldest. There is an engraved gable stone in front of the school indicating1909 date and the newer Broadview Public School to the south, originally built in the 1960s is under construction right now! It will be the newest school in the city and will be a pivotal structure for the community. There are Churchill Alternative School, Hilson Public, Yitzhak Rabin High School, Notre Dame High School, Blyth Institute, Our Lady of Fatima School and Woodroffe Public School. They offer diverse programs and several offer Early French Immersion instruction.
Residents have seen exciting changes to the community with new mid-level condos rising up and older homes replaced with the “new look” in architecture design. The commercial district has changed too with more coffee shops such as Starbucks, Bridgehead, Equator, Second Cup and David’s Tea all competing for attention. Several new eateries such as Gizellig, Fritelli, Piggy Market and Chez Francois attract the “foodies”.Walking down Richmond road is an enjoyable experience. I like to look in the sporting goods shops and to see the street food vendors and musicians. I think it’s a good sign to see the less permanent “street vendors”. To me it indicates a critical mass of engaged residents coming to the area to support their craft. The Farmer’s Market is one example of the new arrivals. The open air market is a Saturday attraction located along the Byron Linear Park at Golden Avenue.
With the new popularity of Westboro there is a lot of residential development and infill housing. It’s a good thing for people buying into the neighbourhood but it has its disadvantages. I notice vehicle traffic is slower. It’s more congested at peak hours. It will take time for drivers to become accustomed to the new reality, however the advantages of having more resources supported by the increased population makes up for it. There is a lot of roadway construction too. Besides the tearing down of homes and the rebuilding, there are new sewers, waterline installations and traffic/bicycle lane changes. Soon we will see the preparations for the Light Rail system called the O-Train or Confederation Line. Construction progressively approaches from the east from downtown. The current Westboro Station will be maintained. The light rail line is thought to be submerged along the south side of the parkway as it approaches the new Woodroffe Avenue Station.
Westboro is known for a mix of housing types; not your cookie cutter neighbourhood and this is reflected in range of home value. The average list price for the greater Westboro area in the fall of 2015 is just about $630,000 and I’ve excluded a dozen homes priced above $950,000 in this calculation. The average sale price comes in at $563,700 suggesting there are many more modestly priced homes selling compared to higher priced homes. The average price of a newer (2000-2015) semidetached home is $860,000. Newer (2000-2015) detached homes are priced about $1,100,000 on average. There is just one older condo built in the 1970s, known as the Barkley on Dominion. Newer built condos are sprinkled along Richmond Road. There is The Station, The Exchange, The Continental, Stonework lofts, The Metropole, and the Nun’s place on Richmond and Patricia the picture reflects mostly newer buildings and the average price is $340,000 for a two bed, two bath unit.