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Château Laurier addition

Château Laurier addition

Applicant’s proposal 

The City of Ottawa has received a Site Plan Control application to remove the existing parking garage at the Château Laurier hotel and construct an addition containing 218 long-stay hotel units, an interior courtyard and five levels of underground parking with 385 parking spaces. 

Larco Investments Ltd. (Larco) owns the Fairmont Château Laurier property at 1 Rideau Street. Larco is proposing these changes to address the growing need for long-term stay accommodations in Ottawa and to replace the old parking garage. The existing hotel has 426 hotel units, which would not be affected. 

Proposal details

The 12,037 m2 site is located at the northwest corner of Rideau Street and Mackenzie Avenue, along the Confederation Boulevard ceremonial route. There are existing driveways accessing parking and drop-off areas from both streets. 

The following land uses surround the subject site:

  • North: Majors Hill Park, owned and maintained by the National Capital Commission
  • East: 700 Sussex, a mixed-use building, and the Byward Market consisting of a wide range of uses, including retail, restaurant and residential uses, and which is a Heritage Conservation District
  • South: the Government Conference Centre (former Union Station) and the Rideau Canal beyond
  • West: the Rideau Canal, and Parliament Hill beyond

The site is designated Central Area within the City of Ottawa Official Plan and is within the Canal Character Area of the Central Area Secondary Plan. The zoning is Mixed Use Downtown, subject to a maximum floor space index of 4.5 (MD F(4.5)). The site is also subject to the Heritage Overlay

The Château Laurier hotel was built originally between 1908 and 1912 by the Grand Trunk Railway Company in the late Victorian French Château style. A wing along Mackenzie Street was added in 1929. The parking garage structure was added in 1960, and, in 1985, Rideau Street drop-off area was enlarged and a glass front was added to Zoe’s Lounge. 

The proposed addition consists of two buildings, 11 storeys (33.25 metres) on the east side and 12 storeys (36.2 metres) on the west side, on a podium. The new underground parking would be accessed from Mackenzie Avenue. The Mackenzie Avenue forecourt would be landscaped and two new internal loading spaces would be created with access from the drop-off. A new internal courtyard is proposed, which would abut the existing ground floor ballroom and have a new glass link to the hotel’s upper terrace along the canal side.  

The proposed addition uses a contemporary design approach, and the exterior is primarily composed of windows and Indiana limestone with bronze accents. The roof is clad in glass and copper. New and existing flat roofs would be landscaped. No trees within Major’s Hill Park would be removed.

Related planning applications

A minor variance application is required to address the requirements of the Heritage Overlay, which state that new construction must be the same gross floor area as the original building. A heritage permit is also required for an addition to a building designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. A Cultural Heritage Impact Statement has been submitted with the application.

Key views of the addition

Alexandra Bridge

Architect's rendering of the addition to the Chateau Laurier hotel as seen from Alexandria Bridge

Major's Hill Park

Architectural elevation of the addition to the Chateau Laurier hotel as seen from Major's Hill Park

Confederation Square

Architect's rendering of the addition to the Chateau Laurier hotel as seen from Confederation Square

As We Heard It Report - May 2017

Consultation overview

The City received a site plan control application for an addition to the rear of the Château Laurier in December 2016, which staff deemed complete in February 2017. 

Residents had an opportunity to comment on the application from February 14 to March 15. The City notified residents of the initial comment period by:

The City collected public comments through an online feedback form, by email and phone. This As We Heard It Report [PDF 475 KB] only summarizes the completed feedback form submissions. 

Due to the significant volume of public comments received, a complete transcript of all the unedited comments is not included in this report. You may request the transcript by emailing chateaulaurier@ottawa.ca. Personal information is protected by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and will not be included in responses to requests information. 

Interest group feedback 

The City circulated the site plan control application for technical review on February 14. It was circulated to the ward councillor, community associations in the area, other City departments, and technical agencies. Heritage Ottawa, the Lowertown Community Association and Parks Canada submitted comments on the proposal to City staff. Here is what they had to say:

Common misconceptions 

Building materials 

The addition does not propose a darker stone or concrete but shows Indiana Limestone of the same colour as the existing building. A detailed description of the proposed materials will be available when the City receives the heritage application.  

Condominiums

The addition will not be a condominium. It will be an extension of the existing hotel and will contain units for guests intending longer stays. These units will be larger and will include facilities like kitchens and separate bedrooms that the hotel’s current rooms do not have. The land use is not changing; the building will remain a hotel. 

Green space

The addition will be built on the privately-owned land that the parking garage currently occupies. No green or public spaces will be removed by the development. Though the addition will be visible from Major’s Hill Park, the current proposal will not involve any construction in the park.

Next steps  

  1. The Heritage Working Group has met three times and will continue in an advisory role as required. The group's advice will be summarized in the future Built Heritage Sub-Committee report. 
  2. City staff will review all public and technical comments and provide feedback to the applicant for response. 
  3. The applicant will consider the feedback and prepare a response, which may include revising some of the previously submitted plans and studies. 
  4. The City will share the applicant’s resubmission with the public when it is received.
  5. The Urban Design Review Panel’s formal review is expected to occur in the summer. A public meeting, Committee of Adjustment and heritage application submissions are expected to occur in the fall. 

Residents may provide feedback on the development proposal until the City approves the Site Plan Control application. Please refer to the process timeline [PDF 76 KB] for more information.

City staff will notify individuals on the notification list of all meeting dates project updates and decisions by email. Please email chateaulaurier@ottawa.ca to be added to the notification list.  

Frequently asked questions

Why is Larco changing the hotel?

The addition is being proposed to address the growing need for long-term stay accommodations in Ottawa and to replace the old parking garage.  

For a more detailed explanation, please visit Larco’s project website

Approval process 

What planning approvals are required?

The applicant must submit applications to the City of Ottawa for site plan control, minor variance and a heritage permit application.

Who will approve the applications?

The Manager of the Development Review Central Branch will approve the site plan control application through delegated authority unless the ward councillor requests to withdraw this authority. If delegated authority is withdrawn, City staff will make recommendations to Planning Committee, which will make the final decision. 

The Committee of Adjustment will make the final decision on the minor variance application.

City Council will make the final decision on the heritage application and only the property owner can appeal Council’s decision. City staff will make recommendations to the Built Heritage Sub-Committee, which would then be considered by Planning Committee and City Council. If the application is approved, City Council will issue a heritage permit to allow construction to proceed.

Can the application decisions be appealed?

A resident has the right to appeal the Committee of Adjustment’s decision on the minor variance application. Appeals must be filed within 20 days of the date of the Committee’s written decision and include the reasons for the appeal and the fee. Only the property owner can appeal the Manager’s decision on the site plan control application or Council’s decision on the heritage application. The Ontario Municipal Board hears appeals against development applications while the Conservation Review Board hears appeals against heritage applications. 

Public consultation 

How will my comments on the proposal be considered?

City staff will consider public comments when reviewing the site plan control, minor variance and heritage applications. Comments relevant to each application will be summarized in the corresponding staff report before a decision is made. 

Public feedback on the site plan control application has been summarized in an As We Heard It Report [PDF 475 KB]. City staff have read all of the public feedback and will provide a summary of public comments and suggestions to the developer’s team of consultants, which includes the lead architect. The developer’s team will decide how they use the information.   

Planning staff expect some refinement of the proposal based on feedback from residents and the Heritage Working Group

Residents will also have opportunities to submit comments directly to Built Heritage Sub-Committee, Planning Committee and the Committee of Adjustment. The process timeline [PDF 76 KB] illustrates the meetings that residents can attend and in which they can participate.

Does my feedback really matter? 

Yes. Public consultation is a key aspect of the planning process. City planners analyze all relevant policies and the responses from the public and technical agencies when reviewing development proposals. Their recommendations to elected officials or delegated authorities represent their professional planning opinion, which is based on this careful review and analysis.  

Why did the City use software to analyze the feedback form responses? 

The City used text analysis software called KH Coder to analyze and summarize the 1759 public responses. City staff read all of the comments and selected examples that illustrated the patterns that emerged from the analysis. The National Capital Commission used KH Coder to analyze public feedback on the Ottawa Hospital site review and the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats last year. 

To learn more, please read the As We Heard It Report [PDF 475 KB].

What is the Official Plan context for the property?

The property is designated Central Area in the Official Plan. It is also within the Canal Character Area of the Central Area Secondary Plan.

In the Canal Character Area:

  • The focus is on leisure, cultural, institutional, judicial and government uses within a unique historical open space environment
  • Development is to be predominantly low to medium profile and respectful of the heritage character of the area
  • Significant views are to be protected, particularly of the Parliament Buildings
  • Vehicular impacts on the pedestrian-oriented character of the area are to be minimized

The Central Area Secondary Plan does not contain policies specific to the Château Laurier property. 

Several Scenic Entry Routes surround the property. The Official Plan identifies both Wellington/Rideau Street and Mackenzie Avenue and part of Confederation Boulevard as distinctive streets [PDF 1.67 MB].

Zoning

What zoning regulations apply to the property?

The Château Laurier property is zoned Mixed-Use Downtown and is within the Heritage Overlay. The maximum floor space index is 4.5.   

Is there a height limit?

The Heritage Overlay requires the height of the addition’s walls and roof not to exceed those of the heritage building. 

What are the required setbacks?

There are no required setbacks in the Mixed-Use Downtown zone. The Heritage Overlay provisions require an addition to a heritage building to be set in at least 60 centimetres more than the existing side wall. 

Why does the proposal not meet the zoning and require a minor variance?

A minor variance is required to exempt the proposal from a provision of the Heritage Overlay, which states that, where a building subject to the heritage overlay is removed or destroyed, it must be rebuilt with the same character, scale, massing, volume and floor area, and in the same location as existed prior to its removal or destruction. Larco’s proposal is to remove the parking garage and replace it with an addition that is different from what existed. 

Heritage

What is the heritage status of the hotel? 

The City of Ottawa designated the Château Laurier under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in 1978 for its architectural and historical value. The designation by-law includes the following reasons for designation:

The Château Laurier at Rideau Street and Mackenzie Avenue, is recommended for designation as being of historical and architectural value. Erected 1908-1912 by the Grand Trunk Railway Company, and subsequently enlarged in keeping with the original architectural style, the hotel was built in the late Victorian French Chateau style, as designed by Montreal architects Ross and MacFarlane. This was in contrast to the initial Gothic Revival proposal. The romantic attractiveness of the Chateau Style became incorporated in a series of hotels across Canada. Sir Wilfred Laurier was the first to sign the register. From 1930-35 R.B. Bennett resided here. Over the years, the Chateau has served as a second home for many M.P.s and Senators, providing a dignified, hospitable and lively Ottawa residence. 

In addition to the designation under the Ontario Heritage Act, the Historic Properties and Monuments Board of Canada has designated the Château Laurier as a National Historic Property. This designation is commemorative only and does not carry any restrictions. 

How do Heritage Planners evaluate an addition to a designated heritage building?

Heritage planners use a variety of tools and international standards to evaluate additions to designated heritage buildings. These include Parks Canada’s Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada adopted by City Council in 2008. Standards 10, 11 and 12 specifically address rehabilitation projects. Standard 11 stresses that the heritage value and character-defining elements of a building should be conserved when an addition is constructed and that it be physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place. Section 4.3.1 of the Guidelines for Buildings provides further direction on additions. 

Why is there a heritage working group? 

Sometimes, City staff will ask external heritage professionals for advice in assessing more high profile or complex development applications. Experience has shown that the input of independent experts often results in a better outcome. The City has invited professionals with backgrounds in heritage conservation, architecture and landscape architecture to be part of a heritage working group for the Château Laurier proposal, which will provide advice and offer solutions to the owner’s design team.     

Who are the members of the heritage working group?

The working group includes five highly respected members of the heritage community:

Robert Allsopp, OALA, RPP, MCIP
Partner, DTAH

Leslie Maitland
Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals, architectural historian, former president of Heritage Ottawa

Robert Martin, OAA, MRAIC, CAHP, LEED AP
Principal, Robertson Martin Architects

Michael McClelland, OAA, CAHP, FRAIC 
Principal, ERA Architects

John Zvonar, OALA

Is the applicant likely to revise the addition to look like the existing building?  

The applicant is likely to revise the addition, but the revised addition is unlikely to replicate the architectural style of the existing building. 

If the addition were built to look like the existing building then it would be difficult to distinguish the new part from the historic part of the building, which would take the focus away from the historic visual qualities of the designated building. The architectural goal of this project is to build a new addition to an existing heritage building in such a way that the designated building continues to be the defining feature of the property. 

Heritage Ottawa explains this further by saying,

So how, many wonder, can such an overtly modern addition to this heritage-designated icon even be contemplated? The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada states: "Conserve the heritage value and character-defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place or any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place."

The "glass lantern" on the Victoria Memorial Building at the Canadian Museum of Nature is one example of this standard successfully applied.

The credo that new additions to heritage structures should be recognized as products "of their own time" is intended, in part, to prevent an undesirable theme-park effect of mimicry or "faux historicism" where new construction might be confused with original historic fabric. Modern additions to heritage buildings can certainly be successful - but achieving visual harmony and a successful balance of contrasts between old and new is a complex, case-specific undertaking for which no recipe exists.

A compatible addition to the Château Laurier must respond sensitively to the heritage character of the original building and its exceptional site.

Applications under City review

Site plan control 

The Planning Act is the law that allows the City to pass a site plan control by-law [PDF 184 KB]. The site plan control by-law is a legal document that sets out whether development can proceed with or without site plan approval. 

The site plan control process allows the City to influence land development so that it is safe, functional and orderly. It is also used to ensure that the development standards approved by the City and other agencies are implemented and maintained.  

To determine if a proposal qualifies for site plan approval, staff complete a comprehensive review of plans and studies submitted with the site plan control application [PDF 1.03 MB]. Technical agencies, ward councillors and the public all inform staff’s decision to approve, modify or refuse an application for site plan control. 

Building location, landscape treatment, pedestrian access, drainage control and parking layout are a few of the items addressed during review.

Public Notification and Consultation

Certain site plan proposals are subject to the City's public notification and consultation process. A large sign summarizing the proposal is placed on the property to notify the public that an application has been received. Registered community organizations enrolled with the City are also given notice when a site plan proposal is received in their neighbourhood.

Detailed information about proposals that require public notification and consultation, including a copy of the site plan is available online. Any person who wishes to provide comments to staff for consideration may do so within the designated comment period. Refer to the review status online to determine if the comment period for an application is in progress. To submit comments to staff, select the application number from the list of results. An option to send comment is located on the details page under the heading, file lead.

If there is significant interest in a proposal a community information and comment session may be held.In general, the following site plan proposals are subject to public notification and consultation.

  • New residential buildings containing five or more dwelling units
  • New buildings with a gross floor area of 350 square metres or more, other than a building containing only a Medical Marihuana Production Facility
  • Additions that expand the gross floor area of a building by more than fifty per cent, excluding a building containing only a Medical Marihuana Production Facility, a residential building containing less than five dwelling units, or a building that after the addition is less than 350 square metres in gross floor area
  • A change in use that results in the construction of more than 10 new parking spaces, or a drive-through

Key Steps in the Site Plan Control Approval Process

  • Applicant arranges a pre-application consultation meeting with City staff. Meeting is mandatory if the proposal is subject to public notification and consultation.
  • Applicant submits a complete application with studies, plans and fees to a Client Service Centre. Study, plan and fee requirements are outlined during pre-application consultation. Refer to the City's Guide to Preparing Studies and Plans for information on preparing these requirements.
  • A file lead is assigned to manage the review of the application. Details about the proposal are sent to technical agencies, public bodies and the ward councillor for consideration.
  • After the comment period ends the file lead discusses the outcomes of consultation with the applicant. Any modifications to the proposal are updated on the plans submitted to the City for approval.
  • Approval of Site Plan Control applications is delegated to City staff by Council. Councillors have the authority to withdraw this delegated authority. In these instances, the application will be placed before either the Planning Committee or the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee for a decision. If the applicant disagrees with the conditions of approval, they may file an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • In accordance with the Site Plan Control By-law [PDF 184 KB], the applicant enters into an agreement or undertaking with the City. The applicant has up to six months from the date of approval to sign a Letter of Undertaking and up to one year to enter into a Site Plan Agreement.
  • As part of the Agreement the applicant provides a development cost estimate to the City so that financial securities can be calculated. Securities are held by the City to ensure that construction is completed in accordance with the approved Site Plan. The applicant provides the City with the required securities in the form of a bank issued letter of credit. The applicant also supplies a certificate of insurance to protect staff completing work on private property.
  • After construction is complete, the development is inspected by staff for compliance. Securities are released if the built project complies with the approved plans. 

Timeline for Processing an Application

Public Consultation
Milestone Step Delegated Authority Authority Withdrawn
Pre-Consultation with City staff (required) Prior to Filing Application Prior to Filing Application
Pre-Consultation with Public (optional) Prior to Filing Application Prior to Filing Application
Application Submission Day 1 N/A
Application Reviewed for Adequacy Day 6 N/A
Community "Heads Up" (if required) Day 9 N/A
Circulation to Technical Agencies, Public Bodies, Community Organizations and Ward Councillor Day 14 (Week 2)     N/A
Posting of On-site Sign Day 17 (Week 2.5) N/A
End of Circulation Period Day 45 (Week 5.5) Day 45 (Week 5.5)Preferred last day to withdraw delegated authority
Community Information and Comment Session (CICS) If Required (add two weeks to all subsequent steps) (add two weeks to all subsequent steps)
End of Issue Resolution Day 60 (Week 8.5) Day 60 (Week 8.5)
Report Preparation (Delegated Authority or Planning or Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee) Day 67 (Week 9.5) Day 68 (Week 9.5)
Report Sign-off by Manager Day 74 (Week 10.5) N/A
Report Sign-off by General Manager N/A Day 70 (Week 10)
Notification of Committee Meeting and Report Mail out to Public N/A Day 83 (Week 12)
Planning or Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Meeting (Review/Decision) N/A Day 98 (Week 14)

Minor variance 

The Committee of Adjustment is authorized to consider applications for minor variances from a zoning by-law under Section 45 of the Planning Act.

Minor variances are often necessitated by circumstances peculiar to a property which prevent the owner from developing it in a way which conforms to a zoning by-law. Examples of minor variance applications include requests for relief from the building setback, building height, and parking provisions of a zoning by-law.

The Committee is authorized to grant a minor variance if all of the following criteria, commonly referred to as the “four tests,” are met:

  • The variance is minor
  • The variance is desirable for the appropriate development or use of the property
  • The general intent and purpose of the zoning by-law is maintained
  • The general intent and purpose of the Official Plan is maintained

The Committee will refuse an application if, in its opinion, one or more of the above criteria have not been met.

The Committee cannot grant exemptions to the by-law which, in effect, would constitute a change of zoning. In such cases, property owners may wish to make an application for a zoning by-law amendment.

Heritage application

Any addition to a designated heritage building requires the approval of the City of Ottawa under the Ontario Heritage Act. The property owner must submit an application to the Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department. Once the application is deemed complete, City staff issue an acknowledgement letter to the applicant. The Ontario Heritage Act requires applications to be processed within 90 days of the issuance of this letter. 

City staff will notify the ward councillor, local community association and Heritage Ottawa of the application and ask them for formal comments. Adjacent property owners will be notified of the application by letter informing them of the dates and times of the Built Heritage Sub-Committee, Planning Committee and City Council meetings

City staff review heritage applications to ensure that they respect the heritage character of the designated heritage building.  City staff review proposals against the Statement of Cultural Heritage Value for the building and the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada. They also review the Cultural Heritage Impact Statement prepared for the proposal. The Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department will make a recommendation to the Built Heritage Sub-Committee, Planning Committee and City Council on the application. 

Tell us what you think!

You may view all of the plans, studies and renderings that the City of Ottawa has received as part of the site plan control application on Development Application Search

You can participate in the public consultation process for this proposal in several ways. You may:

City staff will notify individuals on the notification list of all meeting dates and decisions by email. Please email chateaulaurier@ottawa.ca to be added to the notification list. 

Accessibility is an important consideration for the City of Ottawa. If you require special accommodation, please email or call Allison Hamlin at 613-580-2424, extension 25477.

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For more information:

Alexandre Séguin
Program and Project Management Officer
Business Support Services 
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department 
613-580-2424, ext. 24375
E-mail: alexandre.seguin@ottawa.ca