Forfeiting its Right of Final Approval, City Council Votes to "Return to the Drawing Board" on Château Laurier Addition

Night view from Major's Hill Park. Rendering: architectsAlliance

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Final Approval for Design Changes to be Delegated to City Staff


City Council voted unanimously on June 27, 2018 to approve the Built Heritage Sub Committee’s (BHSC) amendment to the City Staff Report recommendation that the design of the addition to the Château Laurier hotel be approved in its proposed form. The amendment calls for staff to work with the applicants, Larco Investments and its architect Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance, and return an improved design that is more “visually compatible with the existing Château Laurier.”

Heritage Ottawa supported the intention of the BHSC initiative, but retains strong concerns that the BHSC recommendation did not go far enough to ensure that subsequent design changes will achieve design excellence while meeting the Standards and Guidelines’ test of compatibility.

Heritage Ottawa recommended the following more robust review process be established:

  • Reconstitute the 2017 Heritage Working Group (as suggested by BHSC) to guide the proponent on subsequent design changes;
  • Re-engage the Urban Design Review Panel in a formal review of the resulting design;
  • Invite the public to an Open House before submitting the resulting design for approval, and
  • Amend Recommendation 1(e) of the BHSC Motion, and make any other necessary amendments in order that the resulting design be referred back to BHSC, Planning Committee and Ottawa City Council for final approval under auspices of the Ontario Heritage Act.

The final bullet expresses Heritage Ottawa’s firm belief that final design approval should not be delegated to city staff, as the motion recommended, but rather that Ottawa City Council should exercise its full authority and responsibility under the Ontario Heritage Act by fully considering all stages of this significant and historic application to alter the Château Laurier hotel.

Planning Committee chose to support the BHSC amendment, without additional changes, at its meeting of June 26.  At the meeting, Councillor Tobi Nussbaum (chair of BHSC) confirmed for the public record that City staff had committed to consult with the city’s Urban Design Review Panel on the resulting design changes.

Council's decision means that the approval of the final design for the Château Laurier addition ultimately rests with City staff.  With this vote, Ottawa’s elected officials have given up their right under the Ontario Heritage Act to determine whether or not the applicant has met the criteria established in the BHSC amendment. Council will not vote on the final design.

Members of BHSC and councillors will only be able to comment on the Site Plan, which will address such issues as the building’s location, landscaping and traffic and pedestrian access—not the final design of the addition.

City staff anticipate that the Site Plan will not be ready until early winter.


As a building designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, any addition to the Château Laurier required the approval of Ottawa City Council before construction can proceed. The owners submitted a heritage application to the City of Ottawa, as required by the Act.  Steps in the process were as follows:

  • City heritage staff issued a Report on June 11, 2018 recommending approval of the application.
  • Ottawa's Built Heritage Subcommittee (BHSC) met on June 18 to to consider the application and make recommendations to Planning Committee (PC). BHSC unanimously supported a proposed amendment to make the addition “more visually compatible with the existing Château Laurier” (see Motion above).
  • Planning Committee (PC) met on June 26, and recommended adoption of BHSC's proposed amendment to the Mayor and Ottawa City Council.
  • The Mayor and Ottawa City Council met on June 27 and voted to approve the application as amended, delegating approval for any design changes to city staff.