Photography by Mitch Coulter
Garneau, a neighbourhood traditionally known for its historic charms, is evolving to become a mix of the old – a historic 1928 home can be yours for the price of $799,900 – and newer condos and rental units. Martin Kennedy, 42, has experienced both sides of Garneau. He spent a decade living in older homes in the heart of the area, including a charming yellow bungalow across from Garneau School.
In 2001, Kennedy moved into a 10-storey condo building at the corner of Whyte Avenue and 111th Street. His new home is representative of Garneau itself, he says. “There are renters and owners, and a mix of ages and family types: Students, many of whom are new to the city, young and mid-career people and retirees at every stage of life,” says Kennedy. “That’s what attracts me to Garneau and a big part of why I stay here. Garneau works because it brings together diverse people in a beautiful setting. Heritage homes and tree-lined avenues give the neighbourhood character, while apartments provide the population density that attracts and sustains local coffee shops, restaurants, bars and shops.”
Kennedy quotes Christopher Alexander, an Austrian-born, U.S.-raised architect and planner, who once said that when planning neighbourhoods, there should be “old people everywhere.”
“What he meant was that the best neighbourhoods aren’t homogenous collections of people at similar life stages, they’re bustling centres where young, old and middle-aged live side by side and learn from each other. You don’t grow by being surrounded by people who are just like you; you grow by being exposed to differences and reconciling conflicts,” says Kennedy. “This is what we have right in Garneau. The thousands of students who come here every year give the community vitality at every hour of the day and night. The seniors, many of whom have lived here for decades, provide perspective and memory and passion for their community.”
But it’s not just the people themselves who are diverse; it’s also the businesses. “There’s a good mix of long-established businesses and newcomers who keep things fresh,” says Kennedy, citing eateries and cafes like the Highlevel Diner, Sugarbowl, Transcend and newcomer Three Boars Eatery as some examples.
The neighbourhood has an “outgoing, energetic feel,” says Mark Lastiwka, manager of the Sugarbowl. “Generally, the people we get in the restaurant are pretty happy. They’re social – they’re here to relax.” The restaurant, which has been an institution in the neighbourhood since 1944 and has remained constant through everything from fires to new ownership, pulls in residents and people from outside the neighbourhood. In summer, its business doubles, as the patio becomes a spot for people-watching and relaxing.