Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the June 28, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Not a square of vinyl in sight at the Harbour condos

by Ben Bulmer

Wakefield Harbour resident Shirley Brown is happy the two offers she put in to buy houses fell through. After 14 years living above and owning the Riverside Drive store Jamboree, with retirement looming she and her husband were looking for somewhere to live. "This was not in my mind," she said of the Wakefield condo where she now lives, "but we came and looked and we said 'yep, we can live here'."

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Wakefield Harbour residents Jackie Smith (left) and Shirley Brown sit in Brown's condo. They both say they love living in the condo, describing the community as a village within the village. Top right: Brown's cats Blue and Emma pose for a photo. Ben Bulmer photo.

Macintyre's home would make for a perfect spread in the pages of Cottage Life magazine. Tucked away on a private road, he shares the 2,200 square foot space with his wife B.J. and their two children, Ellie, 20, and David, 18. The dark wood panelling, rustic décor and unique art pieces make for a seamless marriage of old and new, antique and modern. Complete with a screened-in sunroom and a pristine view of - and access to - the Gatineau river, it's nothing short of idyllic.

Unflattering nicknamed the 'vinyl village', the development's houses, Brown is quick to point out, are sided with cement board, and said the name unfortunately diminishes what is a great community. For a couple in early retirement, Brown said the condos are a great place to live - and it's not restricted to seniors, as plenty of young families have also chosen to live in what she dubs "a village within the village."

"I like the convenience," said Brown. "I can walk to a friend's to have dinner. I didn't want to live on top of a mountain."

But living in the Wakefield Harbour residence is more than just about the nearby amenities and walkable convenience: the apartments themselves are surprisingly spacious and airy. "A lot of people have moved here after seeing it," Brown said.

Her two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,800 square foot condo isn't exactly small compared to the average condo, but it seems bigger than it is and doesn't feel like an apartment

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Brown's cats Blue and Emma pose for a photo. Ben Bulmer photo.

Built between 2005 and 2007, the harbour project consists of 22 buildings with four condos in each building. Three sizes were built: 900, 1,400, and 1,800 square foot, with the original buyers getting to pick the features and fittings. The development also features a communal pool, gym, tennis court, and recreation room available to rent. There's also a boat dock, fire pit, and racks for canoe and kayak storage.

Early problems with the construction of the condos have been ironed out and the distant management company who originally made decisions has been replaced by a board of residents. The roofs that need replacing will be done with superior quality to those originally installed and any water issues from the development's two wells seem to have been rectified. Brown also said the misconception that the condos aren't sound proof simply isn't true.

Growing up on a farm in Kirk's Ferry, Brown said she has always been used to space, and her condo still gives her that feeling. "It's not like living in a condo. You're not shut in."

Fellow friend and board member Jackie Smith agrees with Brown that the condos are a great place to live. The former real estate agent lived in Chelsea for 30 years on a two and a half acre site, but said she adapted to condo living effortlessly. "Everyone is friendly, everyone talks to each other, everyone helps each other," said Smith. "There's a big support network." On the other hand, they both agree if you don't want to talk to anybody, the place is still private.

There is one thing Brown would change: "We just want the name to go away."

150 Years of History in the Hills
Brown's 1,800 square foot condo is roomy, bright and doesn't look like an appartment. Ben Bulmer photos.

150 Years of History in the Hills
150 Years of History in the Hills
150 Years of History in the Hills
Jackie Smith spent decades living on a two-and-halfacre property in Chelsea, but says the transition to condo living was easy. Ben Bulmer photo.

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