Ottawa

'Deteriorated' Château Laurier parking garage closed over safety concerns

The Fairmont Château Laurier has shut down its aging parking garage for safety reasons as its owners seek approval from the city to demolish it and build a new one.

Parking garage built in 1969 'poses a significant safety risk,' councillor says

The Fairmont Château Laurier closed its above-ground, four-storey parking garage at noon Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, due to safety reasons. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

UPDATE, JAN. 25:

  • The hotel still requires the approval of city council on Jan. 31.
  • The city's planning committee approved the demolition of the garage on Jan. 23.
  • The city's built heritage sub-committee approved the demolition of the garage on Jan. 11.

The Fairmont Château Laurier has shut down its aging parking garage for safety reasons as its owners seek approval from the city to demolish it and build a new one ahead of a major renovation to the 105-year-old Ottawa landmark. 

A notice on the hotel website informed guests the parking garage was closed as of Thursday. "Fairmont Château Laurier will be providing valet service only for all registered guests at a daily rate," the notice reads. 

Meanwhile, the city's built heritage sub-committee is being asked to approve the demolition of the four-storey, five-level outdoor garage before any renovations can begin on the iconic hotel. 

Hotel spokesperson Deneen Perrin said the fifth level and part of the fourth level have been closed since the end of 2015. The closure of the remainder of the garage means 232 parking spots are no longer in use, she said. 

The above-ground garage was built in 1969 and has "deteriorated badly" over time due to the elements, according to a report that will be tabled at the committee meeting on Jan. 11. Coun. Mathieu Fleury is quoted in the report as saying the structure "poses a significant safety risk."

Keeping screened surface lot

"The hotel's owners propose to remove the upper decks of the parking structure, leaving the lowest level as a surface parking lot, screened from view from the Rideau Canal, Major's Hill Park and MacKenzie Avenue by the first floor of the existing walls, which will be stabilized. The screened surface parking lot will remain in use until construction of a new addition to the building," the report said.

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

For the time being, guests will no longer have the option to pay the self-parking fee, the hotel confirmed. Guests will only be allowed to use valet service — a $15 difference — or find parking elsewhere downtown. 

The hotel uses the Indigo parking service and is bringing guest vehicles to an off-site parking lot on George Street during the closure. 

Perrin said guests will now have to give the hotel 30 minutes' notice before requesting their vehicles from the valet. 

The report said the demolition could begin as early as March and take three months to complete, but Perrin said a date has not yet been confirmed. 

Renovation plans ongoing

The proposed demolition comes amidst ongoing plans for a major — and controversial — renovation to the heritage building. 

Architects and owners of the hotel first put forward renderings of a modern glass addition to the building in September 2016, sparking fierce online backlash and a do-over in November 2016. The new set of renderings depicted a slightly smaller addition — but with few other readily discernible differences.

An updated design or re-zoning plan for the addition to the hotel addition is still pending. 

Coun. Tobi Nussbaum told CBC News on Thursday he expects Larco Investments Ltd., the hotel's owner, will submit a heritage permit to the city for the new addition "in the next few months."

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