City staff give thumbs up to Château Laurier redesign

City staff are recommending council approve a proposed addition to the iconic Château Laurier that heritage advocates have denounced.

Staff recommending councillors approve controversial project

City staff say the proposed new design for the Château Laurier addition will be an improvement over the existing parking garage. (City of Ottawa)

City staff are recommending council approve a proposed addition to the iconic Château Laurier that heritage advocates have denounced.

In a report released late on Monday, city staff said the proposed addition is better than the parking garage it will replace and that the latest version should be supported.

"The addition will re-establish a relationship between the hotel and Major's Hill Park, and conserve and improve the heritage value of the historic place through the removal of an unsympathetic parking garage addition that diminished the value of the hotel," reads the report.

Right height 

Larco Investments, the hotel's owner, has been trying to redevelop the garage for two years and have publicly revealed three other designs. City staff have not supported previous efforts.

Some of the other versions were taller than the proposed seven stories in the latest design, city staff said the reduced height will ensure the view of the historic hotel is preserved.

"The balance of the composition of the Château Laurier will remain, as the addition is lower than the hotel, and is separated from it, allowing the historic building to remain the dominant physical element on the lot."

City staff are recommending the new design in part because it won't overshadow the historic hotel. (architectsAlliance)

City limited 

Heritage Ottawa called the proposal "the most disgraceful act of heritage vandalism of our generation," and the staff report notes that most residents wanted a historical addition to the hotel, not the modern concept the company's architect has put forward.

"The city cannot require a building to be built in a particular style, or by a particular architect — that is the choice of the applicant."

Staff said this proposed design won't crowd out the existing hotel, which keeps the heritage of the old building at the centre.

"Its simple contemporary design do not attempt to replicate the exuberance of the original building or to become the primary focus of the property, but rather to provide an understated counterpoint to the historic building."

That understatement doesn't fit with the national significance of the Château Laurier and its place in the capital next to the Rideau Canal and Parliament Hill, according to David Jeanes, president of Heritage Ottawa.

"The changes that have been made have been to reduce or minimize the impact on the heritage building. In other words, they haven't really been to create an important new building, but rather to create a building that won't offend too much," he said.

Jeanes said his group still opposes the design and will be advocating the built heritage sub-committee reject the staff report when it meets next Monday.

with files from CBC's Matthew Kupfer