The latest on Uptown Rideau Street developments

Cynthia Mitchell

Uptown Rideau Street is changing. It had been years since I had walked the stretch of Rideau from Charlotte Street, west towards King Edward, mostly because it always seemed to be under construction. A recent walk, however, revealed lots of changes — and no more construction!

Starting my journey at the corner of Charlotte and Rideau, I popped into the aptly named “The Charlotte” condo sales office. Eyeing the replica of the condo development, I asked the sales rep when the building was expected to be finished. “It opened in the fall of 2019,” Jim of Richcraft explained.

Covering up my embarrassment with some follow-up questions, I learned from Jim that the 14-storey condo has studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments and is just over 50% occupied. Ground floor commercial space fronts onto Rideau Street but has yet to be occupied by tenants. A representative from the realtor, Marcus & Millichap, confirmed that there has been interest from potential tenants, but no details can be shared yet about what types of businesses we might see here in the future.

Further west, I next passed 545 Rideau at the corner of Rideau and Cobourg Streets. Billed as a modern apartment building for today’s urbanite, the fully occupied building has studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. A pharmacy and Appletree Medical Centre fill out the ground floor, both of which have no doubt helped cater to the medical needs of both Sandy Hill and Lowertown residents.

Continuing west to Rideau and Chapel Streets, the former site of the building housing Heartwood House is now a 315-unit rental apartment building called “Story of Rideau & Chapel.” The building opened last October and is 80% occupied, mostly by students and young professionals. At the front of the building, a comfortable seating area is available for community use complete with lounge chairs and patio furniture. Also a feature of The Charlotte, these inviting community spots are known as “privately owned publicly accessible spaces,” and are usually a component that the City requires developers to include to help create a more positive and inviting streetscape. Though both areas were empty of people when I strolled through on a Saturday afternoon, I imagine that these spaces will become more animated and inviting to community members as time goes on and more businesses open up.

As with the other new developments along Rideau Street, commercial space fills out the ground floor of Story of Rideau & Chapel. A Popeyes is already open in one block, while a sign for Onua Bakery, a Montreal-based bakery that specializes in sourdough and African-style bakery products, is coming soon in another space.

Overall, it was eye-opening to see the changes to this stretch of Rideau Street. It was also interesting reading parts of the City’s 2015 Community Design Plan for Uptown Rideau Street and the Sandy Hill Secondary Plan. The City had aimed to transform the area, zoned as a traditional main street, “…into a vibrant and charming community mainstreet” that “prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists and transit users over motorists.” It was nice to see that the City seems to have gotten it right, with a mix of high-quality architecture, wide sidewalks, and new community spaces and businesses, really giving this stretch of Rideau a main street feel.

As with any area that undergoes gentrification though, there’s a risk that long- established businesses and community members will get pushed out by increasing rents. There’s a refreshing mix of businesses, housing, people, and services that have kept this stretch of Rideau vibrant for much of its history. It would be a huge loss to the fabric of our community if that starts to go.

My hope is that Uptown Rideau Street continues to remain a place that is welcoming and inclusive to all, and that the new changes will complement what’s there already. I’ll definitely be checking out this stretch of Rideau more often—Si Señor at 506 beckons!