Lower Town

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View over Lowertown from the west
View over Lowertown from the west
Location of Lowertown in Ottawa
Location of Lowertown in Ottawa
Coordinates: 45°26′00″N 75°41′30″W / 45.43333°N 75.69167°W / 45.43333; -75.69167Coordinates: 45°26′00″N 75°41′30″W / 45.43333°N 75.69167°W / 45.43333; -75.69167
 • MPsMona Fortier
 • MPPsNathalie Des Rosiers
 • CouncillorsMathieu Fleury
60 m (200 ft)
 • Total12,274
 Canada 2011 Census
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))

Lower Town (also spelled "Lowertown" (French: la Basse-Ville) is a neighbourhood in Rideau-Vanier Ward in central Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, to the east of downtown. It is the oldest part of the city. It is bounded roughly by Rideau Street to the south, Sussex Drive and Ottawa River to the north, the Rideau Canal to the west, and the Rideau River to the east. It includes the commercial Byward Market area in the south-western part, and is predominantly residential in the north and east.

It was historically French Canadian and Irish (as opposed to English and Scottish Upper Town, a term no longer in use) and is to this day home to many Franco-Ontarian families, businesses and institutions. Its total population according to the Canada 2011 Census is 12,274 (including Porter Island) [1]

Ethnic diversity[edit]

According to the City of Ottawa website, there are roughly 4180 native English-speakers in Lowertown, 3530 Francophones, and 2235 with other mother tongues. Lower Town is home to a wide variety of immigrants and visible minorities, of which there are 2495.

Lowertown's population is rather diverse. Its main stretch along Rideau Street is very bustling and includes many African, Asian, South Asian, Caribbean, and Lebanese businesses, a large grocery store, the Rideau Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, and an Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

Post-War urban upheaval[edit]

As part of the Greber Plan for Ottawa, new parkways, roads and bridges were constructed in the post-war period as a plan for urban renewal and "improvement" of Ottawa. This period saw major upheaval in the area as dozens of city blocks and hundreds of historic homes were systematically demolished to make way for expanded roads and new development. However, while the redevelopment was done in Lower Town, neighbouring areas opposed the plans, leaving the current incomplete solution to traffic through the area, heavy truck traffic, and poor urban streetscape for Lowertown residents to cope with.

King Edward Avenue[edit]

Today, King Edward Avenue is a six lane main road running north-south through the centre of the neighbourhood. It is connected on its north to the MacDonald Cartier Bridge, a main connection with Gatineau, Quebec, which leads to heavy traffic travelling to and from Gatineau through the area. The traffic exits Lower Town either to the east along St. Patrick or to the south along Rideau and Nicholas to the 417 highway, as south of Rideau, King Edward is a four-lane (and further south, two-lane) road through the Sandy Hill residential neighbourhood with no heavy truck traffic allowed.

The street is so large and so busy that it exists as a major barrier between the east and west halves of Lowertown. Since it is the main truck route between Ottawa and Gatineau there are large numbers of tractor trailers travelling through the core of Ottawa daily, along with tens of thousands of commuters in cars. It is one of the highest accident sites in Ottawa.

The road from the bridge was intended to connect to a new Vanier Parkway to the north of the neighbourhood, across Green Island and Maple Island. This connector was never built because of political opposition, and instead St. Patrick Street east of King Edward was built into a major four-lane thoroughfare cutting through the neighbourhood. The end of the connector from the bridge instead connects to King Edward at a sharp turn where the connector would have continued directly to the east.

King Edward was itself rebuilt into a six-lane major thoroughfare from Sussex Drive to Rideau Street, and the plan was to continue the six-lane through Sandy Hill to connect to the Queensway (417) highway. This also was never built.

Rideau Street[edit]

1845 painting of Sappers Bridge the Rideau Canal and Lower Town by Thomas Burrowes

Rideau Street has had its share of poor development and misguided solutions also. Prior to the shopping malls and suburbanization of today, Rideau Street west of King Edward was a primary shopping area of Ottawa. While to the north, the Byward Market area has continued to thrive, Rideau Street is struggling, with vacant areas, and has become the centre of the homeless population of Ottawa. To the south, the Rideau Centre development provided a shopping mall atmosphere, and retailers moved inside. As part of the development, Rideau Street was turned into a major bus interchange, with enclosed bus shelters on the sidewalks at first. However, these were removed in the late 1990s.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Population calculated by combining Census Tracts 5050055.00 and 5050056.00 with Dissemination Areas 35061789, 35060251, 35061790, 35061792, 35061794, 35061795, 35061796, 35061797, 35061798, 35061020, 35061788 and Census Block 3506134702
  • Newton, Michael (1979), Lower Town Ottawa, volume 1, 1826-1854, Ottawa, Ontario: National Capital Commission