6629 St. Andre was smack in the middle of a neighborhood called le Petit Patrie. Rumor has it that the name was coined mainly as a branding exercise to distinguish it from neighboring Rosemount (and with which it shares a parliamentary riding). My first foray into the the Petit Patrie was a children’s book launch at a francophone bookstore in St. Hubert Plaza. Otherwise, we hadn’t really given it much thought until we saw a place in it that we liked. We fell in love right away. In fact, in the final analysis, we loved the neighborhood more than the place. There are lots of cool little shops (mixed in with the gazillion bridal shops in St. Hubert Plaza), restos (Lin et Lin has the best dumplings in town as far as I can tell), an excellent SAQ, a wonderful Italian sandwich shop and a good Italian resto (Bistro Unique), a convenient metro stop (Beaubien) and all the services you could ever want. The Petit Patrie quickly became our ideal type of a Montreal neighborhood: not as overpriced and trendy as the Plateau, but with a good vibe and plenty of interesting stuff to walk to, and easy to get to from downtown.
We weren’t totally sold on the condo, though, so we started looking around for comparables. We found two in short order.
The first was in the Gay Village, or on the edge thereof: 1200 Amherst #104.
We loved the interior of this place — a huge main room with 22′ ceilings, a mezzanine, 2 bathrooms, and on and on. The space itself was great and we could walk to McGill. However, it was in the middle of party central, and 22′ of windows on the ground floor had us worried that we might as well be hanging a “free consumer electronics” sign out the window for potential thieves. Our friends also –with one exception–dissuaded us from the neighborhood. While less interesting than the Petit Patrie, we liked the idea of being close to so many things, and a couple blocks walk to the Berri-UQAM metro station, which is where the two main lines meet.
Our other contender was at 2055 Pie-IX #118, which was so impressive that I am linking to the .pdf of the entire listing.
The place was breathtaking inside. It is among the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Montreal. There was a huge terrace for Carrie to work her gardening magic. It had parking (the others did not), and some of the fixtures were outrageous: if you look at the bottom of right corner of page 4, you’ll see a walk-in shower that’s the size of a Plateau bedroom. The only downside is that the place didn’t really have separated rooms, and strangely, very little built in storage. At the time, we weren’t ready for the price: we were still thinking closer to the $300,000 range, the condo fees and taxes were high, and then there was the neighborhood.
Located at Pie-IX and Ontario, the loft is part of a neighborhood called Maissoneuve. Maissoneuve is up and coming and has some really nice parts, and some other really down and out parts. The loft was close to the market where we buy bread and vegetables (the Marché Maissoneuve) and had all the trappings of the onset of gentrification (chain coffee shops, mostly), but not a lot in the way of interesting restaurants or other places to go. And the commute to school, while doable, did involved a bus ride to a metro station. Friends again warned us about the neighborhood: “people [=our anglo friends] will think it’s far away.” I wondered about moving somewhere where we weren’t totally excited about the location. Again, we weren’t quite ready to put down an offer.
Finally, there was 816 Dollard. The 3rd floor of an old Victorian in Outremont, it was close to the Outremont Metro (unfortunately on the sleep Blue Line) and had lots of space. But the building was old and creaky, the layout was that classic Montreal railroad style, the one bathroom was tiny, and the place needed a lot of updating, including the electrical. There was no outdoor space and no parking. It was definitely a deal for the neighborhood and amount of space, but it wasn’t quite right for us.
And so, we continued to look, hemming and hawing about what to do.