'Grotesque' Château Laurier addition clears final hurdle

Rendering: Larco Investments

Thursday, June 13, 2019

CBC NEWS | By Kate Porter

The hugely controversial addition to the historic Château Laurier hotel can go ahead, Ottawa's planning committee voted Thursday.

Several city councillors said they dislike the hotel addition's modernist design, and said their inboxes are full of emails from frustrated residents who also detest it. Nevertheless, the committee approved the site plan by a vote of 8-3.

"It is their property, no matter how much you dislike [the design]," said Coun. Rick Chiarelli, who questioned why the National Capital Commission, Parks Canada or other federal agencies hadn't stepped in.

The design has been modified five times in the three years since it was first proposed, and has been reduced in height from 11 storeys to seven.

City council had already approved the more critical heritage permit last June. At the time, council told the architect to include more limestone and better reflect the shape of the existing Château Laurier's windows. The city's chief planner, Steve Willis, has said those conditions have been met.

On Wednesday, Coun. Mathieu Fleury tried to convince city council to revisit the heritage permit, but council refused. Fleury said he'll try again in the coming weeks.

Ottawa's head planning lawyer, Tim Marc, said going down that road would land the city in court with Larco.

With its site plan now approved, all that's left for owner Larco Investments to do is to obtain a couple of minor approvals from the NCC and the city's committee of adjustment.

Speakers at Thursday's meeting didn't mince words.

Former cabinet minister David Collenette called the addition a "desecration" and a "travesty which vandalizes a national historic site."

Architectural historian Peter Coffman said the design is completely  incompatible with the historic hotel.

"In place of romance and playfulness, we have straight lines, right angles and mathematical precision. The Château is fire. The addition is water. The two are locked in a struggle to cancel each other out," said Coffman, who also called the design "grotesque."

Shawn Barber of the Centretown Citizens Community Association said the public intuitively understands that disconnect, too.

"Listen to the radio call-in shows, look at social media, read letters to the editor," he said. "Rarely will you find the public so united on an issue as opposition to this proposal."

The architects for Larco Investments called the addition an essential project that needs to move ahead so the hotel can compete with others in the city.

Related Reading:

Planning Committee Approves Château Laurier Site Plan, but Fleury Pursues Council Vote on Design | Ottawa Citizen, June 13, 2019