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Melding with the neighbourhood

Infill townhomes in Old Ottawa South combine luxe finishes, treetop views

In the early days, the community was split, with some backing the City of Ottawa's commitment to smart growth and infill development, while others wanted to keep the playground and trees surrounding the empty elementary school in Old Ottawa South.

Charlesfort created a sense of warmth and intimacy in its new model homes, combining hardwood floors and sunny spaces in the Windermere's open main level, above, and the Hampstead's cosy living room and eat-in kitchen, below.

The school yard was the unofficial neighbourhood park, but with declining enrolment, the Separate School Board put the site up for sale.

There were delays, protests and, finally, acceptance of change. Eighteen months later, painters are putting the finishing touches on a cluster of Artsand- Crafts townhomes that fill a triangular piece of land that now carries the name Moorcroft.

All but six of the townhomes, including two semi-detached units, are sold and many owners have moved in, says David Casey, eldest son of Charlesfort president Doug Casey, who has championed award-winning infill developments for more than two decades.

Prices are hefty, but so too are the benefits of living steps from shops on Bank Street, schools and the Mayfair Theatre.

The Charlesfort community is so new the railings haven't been finished on rear decks and landscaping crews are busy planting Japanese lilac trees and flowering bushes.

Yet from an outside perspective, the townhomes fit neatly into this community of modest brick homes. The elementary school and playground are gone, but Charlesfort is committed to planting two trees for every tree they took down, says the younger Casey.

Charlesfort saved several trees, including a massive oak facing Bellwood Avenue, and is building a circular park.

The development is also shaded by neighbouring trees, so you feel like you are stepping into a tree fort when climbing the stairs to the third-floor loft in the Windermere model at 22 Scotia Place. The sky room could easily be an office or playroom, thanks to the addition of a full bathroom. The extra deep windows with transoms bring in lots of light and the trees deliver privacy.

There are two bedrooms on the second level, including the master bedroom and its interesting alcove.

The Charlesfort team worked with Ottawa architect Barry Hobin and paid a lot of attention to alcoves, niches and closets for storage.

In fact, all of the townhomes at Moorcroft feature a crawlspace for storage and the furnace and water heater. Accessed from a door in the garage, the space is low, just under 1.8 metres, but it's valuable storage for suitcases, cross-country skis, golf clubs and Christmas decorations.

This smart storage leaves 1,885 square feet of finished living space inside the Windermere, including a den and bathroom off the garage on street level and a large eat-in kitchen and open dining and living room on the main level.

Next door, the 1,725-square-foot Hampstead is slightly smaller, mostly because it does not include a thirdfloor loft. Yet both homes feature fine finishings, including polished granite that resembles soft grey soapstone in the bathroom on the second level.

There is also a large deck off the living room, an outdoor space that features an open pergola roof and wood detailing to provide privacy between neighbours.

At the end of the day, it's the finishing touches that create a sense of intimacy and warmth in the two model homes.

It's partly the hardwood floors, cabinetry by Deslaurier, the small niches with room enough for a desk, the iron outdoor lighting and coloured tiles with the house number and a red or blue painted flower on an outdoor pillar that wrap up a feeling of establishment and belonging.

These newcomers to Old Ottawa South aren't cheap. They start at $568,000 for the Hampstead and $595,000 for the Windermere, and rise to $873,500 for the Hollyhock and its 2,767 square feet of living space next to the massive oak tree at 90 Bellwood Ave.

There are monthly fees, ranging from $103.91 to $140.63, to cover the cost of snow removal, gardening and exterior maintenance.

Moorcroft has been appealing to a range of buyers, from young professionals to new parents and older buyers downsizing from a larger home.

The key is that the buyers all want to live in a mature neighbourhood, says David Casey.

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E. & O.E.