Arnprior’s small town atmosphere makes it an attractive place to be.

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Are you looking for space for your growing family or hoping to downsize in retirement? Arnprior could be the city for you.

The Renfrew County community, west of Ottawa, has a lot to offer. It’s located where the Madawaska River meets the Ottawa River, and both shores are dotted with parks, walking trails, and boat launches.

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“We had looked at a lot of communities and Arnprior really captivated us, just because of the beauty of the city,” says Matt Ott, who moved from Ottawa to Arnprior with his wife Alicia and their two young children in 2015.

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The Madawaska River runs through the center of Arnprior.
The Madawaska River runs through the center of Arnprior. Photo supplied

In the center, a former Victorian post office with a striking clock tower houses a local history museum. At the end of the street, a recently restored vintage movie theater shows movies on two screens. In the summer, a farmers market and free concerts at Robert Simpson Park are popular events.

For the athletic types, there are lighted baseball fields and a soccer field, and the Nick Smith Center has an indoor pool and two tracks. “The city has become very proactive in offering fantastic programming for families and children,” Ott says.

And along with other amenities (a hospital, several schools, a library, restaurants, an independent bookstore, bakeries, and a few national chain stores), Arnprior even has a skydiving school.

But perhaps Arnprior’s biggest advantage for Ottawa residents is that it’s just 40 kilometers from Kanata via four-lane Highway 417. If traffic is light and the weather is good, you can drive from the Canadian Tire Center to Arnprior in about 25 minutes.

Given all that, perhaps it’s not surprising that the city’s official plan projects that the population could jump from 8,741 in 2016 to 12,831 in 2036. If the current surge in residential construction is any indication, it’s on the right track.

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At the eastern end of Arnprior, Neilcorp Homes is building Marshall’s Bay Meadows, a 550-unit development of semi-detached houses, semi-detached houses, bungalows and two-story detached houses. Prices range from $499,900 to $799,900.

Matt Ott
Matt Ott is the co-owner of Steelheads and Strikes, which was featured on a recent episode of HGTV’s Bryan’s All In. Photo supplied

This is Neilcorp’s first foray into Arnprior. Grace Badham, the company’s custodial manager, says the community’s small-town atmosphere made it an attractive place to build. “The city has everything you need.”

Buyers looking for new construction can also check out Callahan Estates (built by Campanale of Ottawa) or Glen Meadows Estates (built by Arnprior-based McEwan Homes).

Empty nesters looking to rent might consider Sawmill Flats, a new luxury apartment community overlooking the Madawaska River. Units range from 710 to 985 square feet, with rents starting at $2,197, and the complex includes a clubhouse with a fitness center, pool table, patio and other amenities.

Steelheads and Strikes is popular with local bowling leagues.
Steelheads and Strikes is popular with local bowling leagues. Photo supplied

Since Arnprio was founded in the 19th century, older houses are usually also available. For example, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on Bell Street, built in 1904, was listed in early April for $484,900. In addition to an office and laundry room on the main floor, the home has a large, partially fenced backyard. The property is one block from the town’s high school and two blocks from downtown.

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Of course, a home is only part of the equation when choosing a community. Unless you are retired, you will also need a job.

Travel is possible from Arnprior to workplaces in Ottawa’s west end. However, for jobs further east, the daily commute may be excessive.

Stacy Mullins-Campbell grew up in Arnprior and moved away when she was 20, but wanted to return. When the pandemic hit and remote work became possible for her husband, she left her bets in Orleans and headed west.

For a time, Mullins-Campbell commuted to her job in Ottawa, near Walkley Road and Highway 417 in Ottawa. However, rush hour traffic took its toll, so he quit. Today, she co-owns a store in downtown Arnprior called Valley Girls Clothing Company, which sells women’s clothing in sizes small to 4X, and she has no regrets.

bay meadows
Marshall’s Bay Meadows is one of several new housing developments in Arnprior. Photo supplied

“If you just look, there is a lot to do in this city. It’s incredible,” she states. He notes that the population has increased greatly in the last two decades, but the community spirit that he remembers from his childhood remains. “We’ve been able to grow but maintain the small-town feel.”

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Matt and Alicia Ott also became traders after moving to Arnprior. They had chosen life in a small town because they wanted to be beekeepers. Their honey was so popular at farmers markets that they opened a brick-and-mortar store for their business, Bee Savvy, in downtown Arnprior in 2020. In addition to their own honey, they sell foods made by other local producers.

And the Otts haven’t stopped there. In early 2022, they purchased a four-lane bowling alley, one of the oldest in Canada, in downtown Arnprior. They’ve transformed the space into an Art Deco-themed destination called Steelheads and Strikes, with new streetside seating, brass stools along a sleek bar, and plans for an ax-throwing room in the basement.

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