Industrial gentrification on the west side

Costco likes to locate in industrial parks. They essentially run a retail store but in industrial space. The reason for this is that they then pay industrial property taxes, which are hugely lower than retail commercial property taxes.

On a smaller scale, we see the flight of retail businesses out of Westboro as it becomes “trendier” — same way as businesses fled the Glebe or New Edinburgh in their heydays of rapid gentrification.

I previously mentioned that Cohen’s Vintage Lighting moved out of Westboro and onto Spruce Street. (Before that, they had been elsewhere as Architectural Antiques, then Hintonburg, then Westboro, now back to Preston area). Most importantly, they moved out of expensive retail space into industrial space. They can do this, and do away with the visibility of their former retail location, because they are a destination store rather than a business that benefits from walk-by or drive-by traffic. People seek out the Vintage Lighting store because they can find it in various ways other than “happening to see it”.

I did this myself when I moved my former business (I am now retired, which is much more fun, I highly recommend it, work is over-rated even when it’s for oneself) out of a highly-taxed downtown ground floor of an office building, trading 5500 sq ft uptown for 12,000 sq ft at City Centre FOR LESS RENT.  Of course, a huge part of commercial rent is property tax.

The west side has seen other businesses move in from more expensive areas. Darryl Thomas’s button and textile business that started out beside Holt Renfrew moved to Bank Street then to Preston, each time getting more space for fewer dollars, and being a destination store, the clientelle followed. The interior design and decorator store now on Preston also moved from Westboro.

On Elm Street, beside G0rdon Framing, in a downstairs industrial space former occupied by a late unlamented printer, one can fine, purveyors of mid-century classics. Their premises back onto those of Vintage Lighting (the building runs right through the block, having faces on Elm and Spruce).

duck your head as you head downstairs ...

Despite sharing an address with the mostly residential Spruce and Elm Streets, these businesses are on the ‘industrial side’ of the street closures that separate residential from commercial users. The property users aren’t so much the problem as the traffic is: the industrial users used to include trucking companies with high volumes of big trucks that are not compatible with street-hockey games, and the replacement businesses are frequented all day by FedEx and other couriers who are not noted for their moderate speeds. Cut through traffic can also be an issue, from selfish motorists who think they can ‘save a light’ by zipping (quickly … too quickly) through residential streets.

Access these businesses off of City Centre Avenue, not Preston. Being semi-retail, don’t expect regular hours, check before going.

These businesses highlight the creative destruction process, whereby gentrification in one neighborhood displaces enterprises to another; whereby obsolete enterprises such as trucking terminals and rail-era industrial uses yield to new users. Ottawa has a huge shortage of industrial space compared to other cities, which severely inhibits startup businesses or specialized niche businesses that seek low-rent premises. How many innovations have not happened here; and how many innovators have gone elsewhere to more welcoming grounds, because we have such a bureaucratic notion of what makes a city beautiful?

inside funky furniture -- it's a mid-century modern time machine
painting an industrial wall red makes it funky

While on City Centre Avenue, check out Art-Is-In Bakery, unit 112 in the City Centre warehouse, for fab bread and baking. It is a commercial bakery with a small retail frontage. Be prepared to find your way between tractor trailers and loading docks to get in, but you’ll never buy Bimbo bread again. If the baking expands your waistline, get some cheap pants at Ottawa Neighborhood Services next door.

9 thoughts on “Industrial gentrification on the west side

  1. How many innovations have not happened here; and how many innovators have gone elsewhere to more welcoming grounds, because we have such a bureaucratic notion of what makes a city beautiful?

    You are on fire these days! Metaphorically, I mean.

  2. I agree with WJM. And I have always found that anytime someone has a bright idea in Ottawa the bureaucrats start looking for reasons why we can’t do something rather than why we could.

  3. That factory is still going strong here in Ottawa. They moved to Beech Street. The Blue Jays Jose Bautista hit 54 home runs this year with the SamBat. A good success story for Ottawa and still a somewhat well kept secret.

      1. They got run out of their original space when they wanted to expand. Not sure about a second space though it is quite likely. I am pretty sure he (Sam Holman) was going to leave Ottawa but it’s good that he stayed.

      2. I remember him saying that, too, and I guess either there was no follow-up coverage, or I missed it and can’t find it on my media engines.

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