Ottawa’s Newly Redeveloped City Centre Has Cultural Appeal in Spades
Ottawa is somewhat of an architectural anomaly.
We have pockets of brand new condominiums in some places, juxtaposed against turn of the 20th century brick buildings with unique heritage moulding within a two-block radius.
Likewise, we see business complexes nearby ugly rectangular cement buildings that resemble industrial warehouses – did that last one ring a bell?
When Hintonberg got bit by the neighbourhood revitalization bug a few years ago, hip new resto-pubs and yoga studios appeared overnight and many a condo was planned. Amid all the development frenzy, somehow not a single ripple of gentrification reached the infamous City Centre building bordering Hintonberg and Centretown that Browns Cleaners has called home since 1986.
Draped in grey blandness, back then City Centre was reviled by Ottawans. And it wasn’t just grey and bland; it was an “eyesore,” seemingly disconnected from the rest of the area.
But the building dodged community demolition requests, and today has found itself a much better reputation and even some hipster cred which Brian McGregor (Manager of Browns Cleaners) attributes to more than one thing. “There is several factors that have played a role in the revitalization or transformation of the City Centre,” he notes.
Some physical changes have been made to the interior and exterior of the building, according to the realty company who owns it, but the more dramatic changes started when a booming local boulangerie decided to move and set up shop right next to Browns Cleaners. “When Art Is In Bakery arrived, they came here as a wholesale bakery only, needing more space. But they opened to the public and have never looked back,” says Brian.
Thanks to their local and now national fame (featured on the Food Network) Art Is In’s success followed them straight to City Centre. Now brunch culture has a home base in this industrial building, and a streak of colour and life has found its way to the area.
Since 2012, hopeful young musicians seeking rehearsal space beyond their own apartments have been renting space around the other side of the City Centre building. Officially known as Capital Rehearsal Studios, grungy bearded hipsters call their beloved, fully-equipped, warehouse-style jam space GABBA HEY. Amps and drum sets are even included in the cheap hourly rental fee.
Beyond auditory art, visual artists now have a space at City Centre also. Orange Gallery, a well-established and popular Ottawa art gallery recently relocated to the City Centre property, occupying a large old house. It now has room for several artists studios so it not only displays art, but is helping to create it too.
If this isn’t enough to prove that City Centre has seen some serious redevelopment, one of the coolest new microbreweries in Ottawa is growing and made the decision to set up shop right between Browns and Art Is In. Beyond The Pale’s creative brewing is set to kick off in the area later this summer. The craft brewers actually have Browns to thank for freeing up some of their former facility space to accommodate their upcoming 15-barrel system.
If you’re treating yourself to some artisan pastry and a locally roasted latte this Canada Day long weekend at 250 City Centre Avenue, it only makes sense to swing by Browns next door to see what they have to offer.