Ottawa

Developer unveils another attempt at Château Laurier addition

Developers have unveiled new design plans for the Château Laurier addition after the original plans sparked fury among Ottawa residents.

New plans created after original design derided by critics

The new design proposal seen from Parliament Hill. (Larco Investments)

Developers have unveiled new design plans for the Château Laurier addition after the original plans sparked fury among Ottawa residents.

The new addition to the hotel, which opened in 1912 and was declared a national historic site in 1980, will replace a crumbling 5-storey parking garage that's set for demolition.

According to a news release, the public consultations sparked "a totally new approach" to the design. The new plans consist of an 8-storey pavilion with 171 new guest suites, and will use materials such as white steel and glass. 

The facade of the new addition and the original building. (Larco Investments)

The distance between the original building and the new addition has also been increased, jumping from 5.9 metres to 18.35 metres. According to the press release, the increase will "allow for the two to be distinctly separate."

Dennis Jacobs, a principal planner at Momentum Planning and Communications, said designers wanted a building that could be "visually separate" from the original hotel. 

"The intent was to create a building that was a building unto itself, even though it's an addition and complementary to the hotel," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's All in a Day

A view of the proposed design from Majors Hill Park. (Larco Investments)

The ballroom windows currently facing the parking garage will be turned into doors that lead into an interior courtyard and garden, according to the release. 

The new courtyard will be created between the original building and the addition. (Larco Investments)

Developers said the addition is also expected to include a green roof, with space for a vegetable and herb garden.

Jacobs said the new proposal better reflects the heritage of the hotel, with the spires of the iconic rooftop now visible from all sides thanks to a reduction in the height of the addition. 

"A very important part of the heritage designation is the silhouette," he said. "The spires . . . on top are very important to Ottawa's skyline."

With the new proposal comes a fresh round of public consultations, starting with an open house set for Feb. 28 at City Hall. From there, the proposal will head to the city's Urban Design Review Panel and the Built Heritage Subcommittee — both meetings will be open to the public.

Construction could begin as early as 2019, the release said. 

Architects and owners of the iconic hotel first put forward drawings of a modern glass addition to the building in September 2016, which featured two attached wings that were 11 and 12 storeys high and included 218 more guest rooms.

The design sparked a fierce online backlash and prompted a do-over in November 2016.

The Chateau Laurier addition proposed in 2016 sparked fierce backlash, prompting designers to go back to the drawing board. (Supplied)

But the second attempt bore a striking resemblance to the first iteration — one that critics said was "jarring," "box-like," a "post-modernist mess" and "like a Travelodge has rear-ended a castle" — so designers went back to the drawing board. 

Larco Investments, which bought the hotel in 2013, wanted to move the parking garage underground and add up to 200 more rooms. The company tapped Toronto-based architect Peter Clewes to do the job. 

The Château Laurier currently has 426 rooms and hasn't gone through any major changes in about 50 years. The hotel shut down its deteriorating parking garage, built in 1969, in early January due to safety concerns.

A rendering of the proposed Chateau Laurier addition, viewed from the Rideau Canal. (Larco Investments)

A report tabled at the city's build-heritage subcommittee on Jan. 11 shed light on troubles with the four-storey, five-level outdoor garage.

In the last year, netting was installed to ensure concrete didn't fall on guests or their vehicles in the garage, which underwent major repairs in 1983 and 2001, the report said.

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