a peek inside the fishbowl

08 Mar, 2010

Buildings and change in Westboro – part one of two posts

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro

My neighborhood is Development Central right now. Winter is coming to an end and there’s a construction crew on every corner. New buildings are springing up all over the place and old ones are getting major facelifts.

One of these is the old Chinese Bible Church on Richmond Road right near the Legion. This is what’s going on there right now:

Chinese Bible Church, Westboro Ottawa

Don’t know which building I’m talking about? I don’t blame you. It blended into everything around it. It was a mass of brown siding, completely unremarkable in every way but size. Your eye easily passed it by, that is, when it wasn’t covered in scaffolding.

It used to be a movie theatre. If I had an extra five million lying around I’d buy it myself, give it a refurb and turn it into another Bytowne Cinema. Imagine how great it would be to live walking distance away from a grand old dame like that.

So the old church/movie theatre is being renovated. People have questions and no one really knows what’s going on. I asked a friend of mine if he had any insider info. Apparently, at two million, it wasn’t selling very well. So the owner/developer is giving it a dust and a polish to make it more attractive to buyers.

It makes me sad already, thinking that it’s likely going to turn into another place to buy coffee or yoga/fitness wear. Or maybe it’ll be another completely useless business for local residents… perhaps it is destined to become a place to get a botox or chiropractic treatment, or to buy kitchen tiles or expensive eyewear.

Where is the baker? The butcher? The deli? Do you think there’s one out there who has two million to spend on a new old building?

More tomorrow.

14 Responses to "Buildings and change in Westboro – part one of two posts"

1 | Bob LeDrew

March 8th, 2010 at 11:13 am


I don’t know if this is the case with that site, but often former theatre sites have covenants saying they can’t be used as theatres ever again. Which sucks. Because I would love to have a theatre in the neighbourhood like your dream.

2 | Binky

March 8th, 2010 at 11:29 am


Baker? Butcher? Deli? Sounds like Wellington Village. Come visit. It’s a great neighbourhood. ;-)

A small cinema in the hood. That would be fantastic. But I think those days are over. :(

3 | BeachMama

March 8th, 2010 at 1:30 pm


Funny, I was thinking a similar thing when I was at MEC last week. There are funky shops and coffee shops, but no little grocer to pop in a buy your daily needs.

As for the old cinema/Church, I don’t remember it being a Theatre but, having worked in Theatres(Cinemas) for 10 years, it sounds fun, but it is hard work.

4 | andrea

March 8th, 2010 at 1:54 pm


The closest big store is the Superstore – but I avoid that place at all costs! I prefer drive to Produce Depot on Carling. When summer comes around I’ll start biking to Wellington Village again. Binky – maybe I’ll see you there? :)

As for the old cinema building, it was operating in the 1950s (if I recall correctly). It’s been a long time since it was a movie theatre.

5 | Finola

March 8th, 2010 at 5:30 pm


I would love to have a movie theater in the neighbourhood. The old Elmdale theater is a church now on Wellington W, and it was still a theater when I was in high school. Maybe it could change back?

6 | DW

March 8th, 2010 at 8:09 pm


We are moving from Wellington Village to Westboro, and one of the things I’ll miss most is the Herb & Spice, Salslove’s and Harvest Loaf (I am leaving out Nicastro’s, the Ottawa Bagel Shop and 3 Tarts)… Its foodie central. Granted Westboro is the outdoor Mecca of Ottawa, but one man can only own so many canoes.

Granted those stores are all still walkable on a good day, bikeable most other times, and a 3 minute car ride the others.

I know at one time Harvest Loaf was in Westboro but it moved because of the rent, though I don’t imagine the rents being any cheaper in WV. I think there was also a grocer there as well, recently? Westboro Market? It was an organic grocer, but it went under within a year. I don’t imagine the competition with the Superstore is easy (I can’t stand that place but perhaps walking there will take some of the parking frustration away).

I would imagine in time businesses that don’t own their own building will move on to Hintonburg when WV rents get too high, until eventually you hit Little Italy which is experiencing the same thing. Gentrification is wonderful… sigh…

We’ve never been, but we do want to try the Piggy Market beside/behind the DQ. I gather it specializes only in pork and I’ve heard it resells a homemade ice cream but its better than nothing.

7 | illhavewhatsheshaving

March 8th, 2010 at 9:25 pm


I really find the “I wish we had more bakers, butchers” argument tired. I don’t really know of an area that has more butchers, bakers, etc on a nice walkable street than Westboro/Wellington West. On the Westboro side, we’ve got the Piggy Market (which I believe does specialize in pork but has other items and prepared foods) and lots of coffee shops, but only a 15 minute walk (or 2 min drive) away is, as the previous commenter suggested, Wellington West. Clearly, those food retailers are doing something right. I do wish that someone could do that on this end, but if they can’t, there is clearly a market reason. You can be sure that lots of food retailers have looked at some of the spaces and decided they weren’t right. The rents in Westboro and Wellington West are almost identical, so that can’t be the main reason.

As a Westboro resident, I’m okay with that. I still choose to live in Westboro.

Westboro is prime real estate, near the river and close to downtown. It was/is clearly development central, but that is to be expected.

BTW, Westboro Market was horrible – ancient produce, empty shelves, outrageous prices. It was doomed from the day it opened.

I HATE going to the Superstore too – but if I need certain staples, that’s where I end up, and I’m happy that I don’t usually have to drive.

8 | lacoop

March 9th, 2010 at 6:30 am


I am just amazed any small business can afford the rent along Richmond road.

If they are to put anything in that old church/theatre, I wish it was a pub. A comfortable pub, with nice seats, a spot for some musicians, some personality….that I would support.

9 | andrea

March 9th, 2010 at 8:56 am


illhavewhatsheshaving: Piggy Market is supposed to be really amazing, but we can’t afford to shop there.

As for the “butchers and bakers” argument being tired, well, I don’t think so. Certainly, I can walk or bike to West Wellington – and I do! But I live here. And if there is going to be more commercial development in Westboro I’d really like it to be something that’s useful to me and for other Westboro residents. Wishing doesn’t make it true … I’m just putting it out there. :)

10 | andrea

March 9th, 2010 at 9:01 am


lacoop: re: rent.
High rents squeeze out small businesses. The little guys are being replaced by chain stores who can afford it. Take for example American Apparel. It’s been there for a couple of years and I rarely see anyone shopping there. How can they afford to stay? It’s because the Westboro rent is supplemented by other (busier) stores within the chain.

11 | DW

March 9th, 2010 at 1:43 pm


I guess that is the catch-22 with the small boutique shops.

They are nice, but you do pay more for your meat at Saslove’s than at Superstore as the big guys can leverage economies of scale.

There is a quality difference as well but to really notice it, you’ve got to buy the high quality cuts and they aren’t cheap.

The same with HL for bread. 4.25 for a loaf vs 2.29 for the Superstore Fresh bakery bread. Not a Dempster prepackage loaf, but bread baked fresh that day at the store. Is the HL bread worth $2 more a loaf?

Again we like and buy at Harvest Loaf but you do pay more.

Back to the post at hand. I would be onboard for a comfy pub or an arthouse cinema in that building.

12 | JD

March 9th, 2010 at 9:51 pm


Is there any subsidized housing in the area? Probably not the best neighbourhood given proximity issues (i.e. proximity to the services those who live in subsidized housing sometimes need, jobs, etc) and lack of affordable stores (I’m guessing, judging by the comments-maybe I’m wrong?). Anyway, just an idea…

13 | Littlehouse

March 9th, 2010 at 11:48 pm


This neighbourhood profile from the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study offers an interesting profile. Scroll down to ‘Neighbourhood Resources for Health’ for info and some analysis on connections between neighbourhood services (especially access to types of food) and health outcomes.

comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter