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Hyperlocal Q&A with Andreae Callanan

Andreae Callanan is one of 12 bloggers who'll be telling her neighbourhood's stories on Hyperlocal - Canada Writes' interactive story map, launching April 3rd. Andreae lives in the west end of downtown St. John's. 

Tell us about yourself. 
I'm a poet and food writer who grew up here in St. John's, and who returned home after ten years spent between Montreal, Yellowknife, and Halifax. My husband, our four children, and I live in a 130-odd year old house in the west end of downtown. We moved to this neighbourhood almost four years ago, painted our house lime green (in contrast to the shades of grey and beige around us), and planted a vegetable garden in the tiny front yard. Yes, we're those neighbours.

Tell us about your neighbourhood. 
My neighbourhood has so far managed to avoid the wave of gentrification that has swept through the rest of the downtown. The area is economically mixed, and the houses represent a mishmash of architectural styles. There's a great amount of green space, including a vacant lot where I pick raspberries and sour cherries each summer. 

There's a real honesty to it, in contrast to much of the recently-renovated downtown that makes it to the tourism commercials. Many residents are artists, musicians, actors, and writers, but the neighbourhood doesn't feel "artsy" in a pretentious or contrived way. If I could change one thing about it, I would turn the shut-down pizza joint on my street into a warm neighbourhood cafe; as it is, there is no real meeting place around here, aside from bumping into people at the drug store.

What are some of your favourite neighbourhood destinations? 
As a parent of young children, I can't stress enough the greatness of the Railway Coastal Museum, which is in our defunct train station; my kids can play there for ages without strife, which is nothing short of miraculous. Power's Salvage is a warehouse of used and reclaimed building materials, where homeowners suffering from Old House Syndrome can sift for light fixtures, storm windows, doorknobs, and other delights. There is also a short strip of antiques stores and junk shops along Water Street that is marvelous for strolling down and poking about: it's the closest we have to an "antiques district." Victoria Park has a marvelous Lantern Festival each summer, but is completely overlooked the rest of the year, which is a shame because it's a great spot.

How is your neighbourhood changing? 
There are currently a number of developments being proposed for the bleak southern section of the neighbourhood (Water Street / Springdale Street area), and for the site of an old hospital a few blocks northwest of that. So far, the proposals seem to be for office towers and hotels, with one residential building that I know of, and it is rumoured that the old hospital location might be used to build a new provincial court. 

The impact these developments will have on the feel of the neighbourhood will be interesting, and could either make the neighbourhood a cozy, bustling office district, or crowd out residents by making the area unpleasantly commercial. Time will tell. 

Andreae Callanan grew up in the east end of downtown St. John's.Today, she has defected to the far-off west end of downtown, where she lives in a lime-green house with her husband and their four children, on a street that was once known as Lazy Banks. Ms Callanan is a poet, food writer, blogger, and gardener.

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