Old East Village is where my heart is. It’s where I put down roots when I came to London. I still think it’s the best and most interesting neighbourhood in the city, but then I’ve always been drawn to neighbourhoods that still have some grit to them. It’s also gentrifying rapidly, at times it seems at warp speed. It is a testament to the people who live here that the downside to rapid gentrification – rising property values making it more challenging for people to live or rent here, especially the creative folks who have been here for a long time – is often the subject of community conversations.
The neighbourhood is comprised of about 1800 homes, arranged on both sides of a rapidly improving Dundas St. commercial corridor – the object of a well-developed, nationally-recognised redevelopment initiative focusing on local food and arts & culture. Old East Village is the home of the Western Fair Farmers & Artisans Market, the Aeolian Hall Performing Arts Centre (recognized as one of the best acoustic “small halls” in the country), the Palace Theatre (home of the London Community Players, an outstanding amateur theatre company), the Clay Arts Centre (home of the London Potters Guild), the Western Fair District (host of the Western Fair, horse-racing, athletic facilities and, of course, the slots), numerous ethnic restaurants and a growing number of locally-owned cafes.
The predominant form of dwelling in the neighbourhood is the late-Victorian brick storey-and-a-half, built between the mid-1880s and the first decade of the 20th century, situated on narrow but relatively deep lots. Interspersed among these are the signature Old East “London Workman’s Cottage”, single floor homes, usually but not always in yellow brick. The neighbourhood was fully built out over a short time around the turn of the 20th century, so the urban form of the neighbourhood is relatively homogenous. A portion of the neighbourhood (1004 homes) was designated as a Heritage Conservation District a few years ago. The designation could easily have been extended to the entire neighbourhood as the building form is the same throughout.
Like all downtown neighbourhoods, Old East streets are arranged on a grid. The neighbourhood scores highly in walkability and sociability. Old Easters are fiercely proud of their neighbourhood. Local folks are involved in the programming at the Boyle Community Centre, resulting in interesting and eclectic programs for youth, adults and families. The Annual Block Party, held on a different street in the neighbourhood each year, is but one of the social events available to residents of Old East.
In 2012, the average selling price of homes in Old East Village was $145,466 on sales of 105 properties, excluding private sales. There are probably more private sales here than anywhere in the city, as residents seem to be particularly adept at self-selecting their neighbours – encouraging friends and acquaintances to move to Old East Village, and then knocking on doors to find them a house. It’s great for the neighbourhood, though less so for realtors.