City of Ottawa launches consultation on much-maligned Château Laurier expansion

The City of Ottawa is opening public consultations on the proposed expansion of the Fairmont Château Laurier after harsh public criticism forced a redesign of the original proposal.

Hotel owner Larco Investments looking for approval of controversial hotel expansion

The view of the proposed Fairmont Château Laurier expansion from Confederation Square as presented in November 2016. (Larco Investments Ltd.)

The City of Ottawa has struck an expert working group​ and launched a website to gather public feedback on the proposed expansion of the Fairmont Château Laurier after public criticism forced a redesign of the original proposal.

City staff told council's planning committee that public pushback, combined with both national and local interest in the hotel, which opened in 1912 and was declared a national historic site in 1980, were factors in deciding to go "above and beyond" on this consultation process.

​Architects and owners of the iconic hotel next to the Rideau Canal on Wellington Street first put forward drawings of a modern glass addition to the hotel in September 2016, sparking a fierce online backlash and a do-over in November 2016.

The architecture firm described the revised addition as eight per cent smaller than the original.

Some of the images presented for the redesigned Château Laurier appeared identical to ones already presented. At left, a design presented last November; at right, the design presented two months earlier.

The website launched for the public consultation said the proposed addition includes two tall buildings, 11 storeys on the east side and 12 storeys on the west side. Building materials include Indiana limestone with bronze accents.

It would include 218 long-stay hotel units and five levels of parking including 385 stalls accessible from Mackenzie Avenue.

The application includes a request to remove the current parking structure, which was added to the north side of the hotel in 1960.

Heritage structure scrutiny

The Château Laurier is formally designated a city heritage building, which means certain restrictions apply to any changes.

A five-person heritage working group made up of architects, landscape architects and a representative of Heritage Ottawa will provide advice to the city, Larco Investments and the National Capital Commission.

That group will hold a closed meeting at the end of February to focus on the proposed design's windows, roofline and relationship to Major's Hill Park.

"We've heard a lot from residents on the fact that the building is not very integrated into the park," said Court Curry, the city's manager responsible for heritage.

"It's [part of the] iconic skyline in Ottawa and we want to make sure it respects not just the policy but the views we want of that building."

Architects presented a nighttime view of the Château Laurier expansion at a public presentation in November 2016. (Larco Investments LTD)

City approvals to be debated in late spring

The hotel's owners want to collaborate with the city and listen to feedback from the heritage working group and the public, said Coun. Mathieu Fleury, whose ward includes the historic hotel.

"Anything and everything is on the table, in my mind," said Fleury.

The public consultation marks the beginning of a legally-required comment period of 28 days. 

The city is considering a second community meeting to discuss the design in March.

Construction could start as soon as fall of 2017.