The Heart of Ottawa: Hintonburg and Mechanicsville

About the Neighbourhood 2010

Parkdale United Church (429 Parkdale Avenue, Ottawa)

Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey of Parkdale United helps outline the hurdles Hintonburg and Mechanicsville have faced, and the issues on the horizon.

The village of Hintonburg became part of Ottawa in 1907, with Mechanicsville following in 1911. Even in its early days, the intersection of Parkdale Avenue and Wellington Street represented the centre of Hintonburg. Many independent shops and restaurants run along Wellington, with a Giant Tiger as the commercial centrepiece. A block up Parkdale and away from the core intersection is the Parkdale United Church. It’s across from the old fire station, and only one of the four churches along the street.

“We are part of the fabric of the community, and their response to issues,” says Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey, the senior minister at the church. Bailey has been active setting up programs to reduce poverty in the neighbourhood, and improve the quality of life. Bailey is familiar with many issues faced in the communities.

Bailey says Ottawa’s rising crack problem particularly affects Hintonburg and Mechanicsville. Crack houses have been regularly active, selling the drug for cash or stolen goods. He says while citizen activism shuts down a lot of crack houses, it’s only a matter of time before they come back.

This struggle between activist middle-class professionals and the lower socio-economic groups is the overarching problem in Hintonburg and Mechanicsville, Bailey says. “We have a very mixed community.”

Westboro is becoming a price out of reach for most people, Bailey says. People are defaulting to the next community, fixing up homes, and raising property value. The Ottawa Citizen reported a 63.1 per cent increase in a Hintonburg home’s average sales price between 1999 and 2003. “Hintonburg is coming back into vogue,” Bailey says.

The downside, Bailey explains, is there is less housing stock available to poorer demographics. Historically, Mechanicsville tends to be poorer than Hintonburg, so they have older housing, Bailey says. He says there’s pressure to sell land to upscale housing developers instead of providing it in some way to those who need it. A number of rooming houses currently support people who are poor, or who have disabilities.

The new middle-class of Hintonburg is very active in the community and local politics, Bailey says. In 1999, grassroot efforts raised support to clean up the prostitution problem that used to characterize the neighbourhood. Though, a 2006 Ottawa Citizen article covering eleven arrests in a police sweep proves that sex trafficking is an ongoing issue for Hintonburg and Mechanicsville.

The politically active minority is happy with their representation, Kitchissippi Coun. Christine Leadman, Bailey says. He says they’re an active bunch who justs wants someone to listen. They’re interested in improving their community, he says, like adding more green space, or reducing congestion on Parkdale Avenue.

Bailey says he is happy to see a steady improvement in the quality of life in Hintonburg and Mechanicsville, and is optimistic about the future. “What we are concerned about is that any decision made to help the community doesn’t leave the most vulnerable behind.”

Geographical Landmarks
The Parkdale Market
Parkdale Fire Station
The Rosemont Public Library
The Transitway, and the O-Trian (Bayview)

Recreational Facilities
Tom Brown Arena
Hintonburg Community Centre
Laroche Park (Organized sports programs)

Neighbourhood Blogs
West Side Action (http://www.westsideaction.blogspot.com/)
West Wellington Community Association (http://blog.westwellington.ca/)
Off the Cuff – Miss Vicky’s Off-Hand Remarks (http://www.offhand.ca/)

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