Newest Château Laurier design faces fewer foes

Yet another redesign for an addition to the historic Château Laurier goes before a city committee next week for approval, but this time, a local heritage group has been involved and sees it as a victory.

Hotel owners worked with Heritage Ottawa to find 'acceptable' addition

Larco Investments is seeking a new heritage permit for a different design of its addition to the Château Laurier hotel. The current architectural drawings feature two towers connected by a two-storey base. (architectsAlliance/City of Ottawa)

Yet another redesign for an addition to the historic Fairmont Château Laurier hotel goes before a pair of city committees next week for approval, but this time, one of the project's staunchest opponents has been involved and sees the latest version as a victory.

Previous proposals dating back to 2016 involved a boxy shape, which critics likened to a radiator or shipping container, that stretched along the back of the building overlooking Major's Hill Park.

The current architectural drawings feature two towers — 10 and 11 storeys — connected by a two-storey base and will use Indiana limestone like the century-old hotel.

City staff recommend councillors on the planning committee and built heritage subcommittee approve a new heritage permit on Feb. 5, followed by city council on Feb. 24. Heritage Ottawa, a group that had launched legal challenges against the old design, will not oppose it.

New design 'acceptable' for Heritage Ottawa

It's not the first heritage permit the city has been asked to issue.

The former city council had first approved the addition in 2018 and the current city council voted to uphold that decision in July 2019, despite fierce opposition from dozens of residents, including former cabinet ministers and comedian Tom Green.

The challenge didn't end there, however. Heritage Ottawa began an appeal at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal and launched a legal challenge, while the project itself was dealt a blow after part of its previous design was found to cantilever too closely to the Major's Hill Park property line.

The drawing on the left is from 2019. In September of that year, Ottawa's committee of adjustment rejected how the cantilevered section got too close to Major's Hill Park. The revised design on the right is being presented for a new heritage permit. (City of Ottawa)

Last winter, the hotel's owners approached the group and asked to work on yet another design, said Heritage Ottawa president Richard Belliveau.

By negotiating with Larco Investments, and consulting with experts in architecture and conservation, Heritage Ottawa said they came out with something "perfectly acceptable."

Heritage Ottawa never opposed a modern expansion, explained Belliveau, but did insist it respect the historic hotel and site.

"We are much happier now. Our campaign and all the support we had from the public has stopped what would have been truly an abominable addition on that space," he said. 

The drawing on the left was before city councillors in June 2019. The version on the right goes before councillors on Feb. 5. (City of Ottawa)

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