The drama at city hall over the Château Laurier’s proposed addition should go silent until the next term of council.
Council on Wednesday voted to have city staff work with the hotel owner, Larco Investments, on another concept that uses more limestone and features more Château-like qualities. Staff can sign off on the final design but they must bring a site plan for political approval, council decided.
After the council meeting, Mayor Jim Watson defended the decision to hold off on a final approval or rejection of Larco’s latest design.
“If we were going to try to shirk our responsibilities as politicians, we would have said, ‘Send it back and come back around Oct. 23,’ ” Watson said, referring to the date after the Oct. 22 municipal election.
However, it’s likely council won’t address the Château Laurier plans again until after the next council takes office on Dec. 1.
It will take at least six months for the hotel, after it has a city-approved design, to complete a site plan that explains how the building will be situated on the property and how it will function. When the site plan is finished, council will be tasked with making sure the staff-approved design meets the heritage standards and guidelines.
It’s unorthodox for council to conditionally grant a permit to alter a heritage property, especially when it comes to the look of a new building.
Watson said he wouldn’t have voted in favour of the latest rendition, although he described the latest version as “substantially better” than previous concepts. He likes the advice from the built-heritage subcommittee to send Larco and city staff back to the drawing board.
“You’re never going to get some people to agree to any alteration on a heritage building, I get that. But even in the downtown core we have examples of new and old blending very nicely together,” Watson said, pointing to the blend of city hall’s historic wing and the more contemporary main building, and the recent glassy renovation of the National Arts Centre.
Watson predicted that when the addition is finally built at the Château Laurier, people will grow to like it.
Earlier this month, council was poised to either approve Larco’s latest design or flat out reject it.
Coun. Tobi Nussbaum and Barry Padolsky, the chair and vice-chair of the built-heritage subcommittee, respectively, crafted a motion that survived the subcommittee, planning committee and council. There were unanimous votes at each meeting supporting their recommendation to conditionally approve the heritage permit, subject to design modifications.
Nussbaum expects that the public will continue having opportunities to provide feedback as Larco tweaks the design.
The urban design review panel is expected to have a public meeting on a future version before the site plan goes to council for approval. The design could also be up for debate at a National Capital Commission board meeting after the federal agency’s planning experts provide guidance.
“I think there’s going to be continued opportunities over the course of the fall for interested people to see how this whole iteration is going,” Nussbaum said.