The history of Westboro and Kitchissippi goes back to the late 1800s when the land was occupied only by farmers’ fields, forestry and a mill on the Ottawa River at current-day Westboro beach. This part of the city has seen many changes since then, and luckily one Wellington Village resident has been keeping a vigilant record of events. Thanks to Dave Allston’s research and his detailed stories about life that shaped Kitchissippi on his blog (sikitchissippimeuseum.blogspot.ca), we have some interesting notes on the neighbourhood history.
Westboro is a perfect name for the neighbourhood, but the original title of the village was Skead’s Mill. Due to a fateful fire, the titular mill burned down in 1888 and by 1899 the residents – then numbering less than 200 – voted to change the village name to Westboro.
Westgate Mall opened in 1955 as Ottawa’s first ever shopping mall. Although it has seen better days, the city of Ottawa billed it as a “March to The Future” when the revolutionary shopping concept first launched. Imagine a giant roundabout at the corner of Richmond Road and Island Park Drive – it was a reality from 1929 until 1957. The intersection, just as busy then as it is now, featured no lights or stop signs, only a massive traffic circle.
The present day Kitchissippi neighbourhood stretches all the way from Carlingwood Mall in the west to the O-Train tracks in the east and is bordered by the Ottawa River to the north and Carling Avenue to the south. It’s fairly common to hear this whole area referred to as Westboro, but it is actually three separate communities, each with their own distinct personality.
Together, Wellington Village and Hintonburg are presided over by the Wellington West BIA, which includes over 500 commercial destinations, making it the single largest BIA in the city’s urban core.
The Wellington West BIA is preparing for an increase in population and density in the area that will drive the commercial destination to new heights. BIA Exectutive Director Zachary Dayler offers a quick vision of the future, “When you look at what makes a neighbourhood, it’s very much the activity on the street – proposals on the table for the city, LRT, Lebreton Flats, Civic Hospital, a new library – you start to see a shifting of the downtown core westward,” he says. “We’re getting these substantial projects that create that cultural milling about traffic coming this way.”
Housing across Kitchissippi is a real mixed bag with ultra-modern infill nestled between bungalows and brick duplexes. Hintonburg is particularly littered with some truly unique housing designs (documented wonderfully by the @housesofhintonburg Instagram account). Condos have quickly become a major player with three major projects in various stages of completion from Westboro to Hintonburg, plus the now fully-operational condo canyon by Ashcroft, and another major build by Mizrahi to begin soon.
While there is a fair supply of affordable housing to be found, mostly in the eastern end of Hintonburg, expect to pay a premium for the hot location. Kitchissippi Ward saw a 7% rise in assessed home values from 2012 to 2016, significantly above the 3.6% city average.
Moving east of Island Park, Wellington Village is quickly developing as a mecca for modern style in Ottawa. An impressive stable of boutique clothing shops mix with high-end salons and barber shops, wrapped around some of the finest restaurants in the city – all on a beautiful and walkable main street.
A bit further eastward past Holland Avenue is Hintonburg, a neighbourhood often associated with the hipster stereotype, but really a hotbed for art and creativity. Community art is huge with the bonus of neighbourhood artists Daniel Martelock and Arpi both being commissioned to paint everything from underpasses to store fronts to the street-side Bell service boxes. With a tattoo parlour, craft breweries and free concerts in the local record shop, there is no shortage of inspiration to be found in this ‘hood.
Westboro is certainly the most recognizable and established part of the strip. Stretching from Golden Avenue eastward to Island Park Drive, Westboro has surpassed the “up-and-coming” label to arrive as a genuine paradise for the modern family. It boasts schools, a beach, a giant grocery store and Mountain Equipment Co-op, plus loads of green space and at least one coffee shop and/or yoga studio per block.