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Château Laurier addition

Project Status: 

Project update - July 2019

Larco Investments has received heritage and site plan approvals to build a rear addition to the Château Laurier hotel. Federal approvals for landscaping, service connections and access and a minor variance decision by the Committee of Adjustment will be required before construction can occur.

The City of Ottawa’s public engagement on this proposal concluded with Council’s approval of the heritage permit on June 27, 2018 and Planning Committee’s approval of the site plan application on June 13, 2019. On July 10 and 11, 2019, City Council upheld the heritage permit approval.

For more information, please visit Larco’s project website or contact:

Art Phillips
Larco Investments Ltd.

Proposal Details

Larco Investments proposes to build a seven-storey, 147-room addition in a contemporary style at the rear of the existing Château Laurier. The development proposal retains the Château Laurier in its entirety and will be built on the site of the former parking garage.  The addition will connect to limited areas on the Château Laurier’s east and west wings. 

The development proposal also includes a landscaped courtyard between the Château Laurier and the proposed addition, a redesigned forecourt for access to loading, a walkway and ramp along the north side of the addition, and a new stairway between the courtyard and the public terrace on the west side of the Rideau Canal. 

Key views of the addition

View from Parliament Hill

View of Chateau Laurier from Parliament Hill

View from the Rideau Canal Locks

View of Chateau Laurier from Rideau Canal Locks

View from Colonel By Statue in Major’s Hill Park

View of Chateau Laurier from Colonel By Statue in Major’s Hill Park

View from Mackenzie Avenue Looking West

View of Chateau Laurier from Mackenzie Avenue looking west

Detail View Looking East

Detail view of Chateau Laurier looking east

Detail View Looking West

Detail view of Chateau Laurier looking west

Courtyard between the hotel and the addition

Courtyard between the hotel and the addition

You may view the approved plans and studies for the site plan control application on Development Application Search.

Next steps

  1. The applicant will seek National Capital Commission approvals for matters related to federal lands.
  2. The Committee of Adjustment will make a decision on the minor variance application.
  3. Larco will obtain a building permit and construct the addition.

Progress from December 2016 to June 2019

The City received a site plan control application for an addition to the rear of the Château Laurier in December 2016. Planning staff requested comments from the public and interest groups through three formal circulations (winter 2017, winter 2018 and winter 2019). Council approved the demolition of the parking garage in January 2018. Council conditionally approved the application to alter the heritage building in spring 2018.

Circulation 1 (February 14 to March 15, 2017)

This As We Heard It Report [PDF 475 KB] summarizes the completed feedback form submissions. City planning staff have read all of the public comments received and have updated the Frequently Asked Questions in response.  

The City also convened a group of heritage professionals to provide expert advice on the design of the addition. The Heritage Working Group met three times between February and April 2017, and offered design feedback directly to the architect and design team. Staff from the City and the National Capital Commission, and the property owner were also present at the meetings of the Heritage Working Group.

City staff and NCC staff also provided feedback on the original design and subsequent iterations throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2017. Key discussion points included:

  • Height and massing 
  • Roof expression
  • Window patterns
  • Stone or glass exterior cladding
  • Addition to appear as a standalone building beside the iconic architecture of the hotel
  • Public realm interface and how the building connects to the adjacent Rideau Canal terraces, Major’s Hill Park and Mackenzie Avenue

Parking garage demolition (2018)

On January 31, 2018, City Council approved an application to demolish the garage of the Château Laurier. The garage was structurally unsound and the applicant planned to demolish the upper four storeys, leaving a surface parking lot for guests. 

Circulation 2 (February 9 to March 9, 2018)

In response to these comments, Larco submitted a revised proposal in February 2018. City staff held a community meeting on February 28, 2018, and approximately 80 people attended. You may watch the presentation on Rogers TV

As before, City planning staff read all of the comments (emails, comment sheets, telephone calls) and summarized the completed feedback form submissions. Staff identified a variety of themes: 

  • No change should be permitted
  • An addition should match the existing hotel’s architecture 
  • The proposed design lacks compatibility
  • The design should be bolder.
  • The addition is too high and obscures views to the existing building
  • The addition will alter sight lines along Mackenzie Avenue.
  • Glass is not an appropriate exterior material
  • The architecture is undesirable

The property is within a Design Priority Area and the Site Plan Control application was subject to the Urban Design Review Panel (UDRP) process. The architect and the Larco team presented their proposal to the UDRP at a formal review meeting on March 1, 2018, which was open to the public, and at a focused design review session on April 10 with City staff and three panel members. The March 1 recommendations and both sessions informed the changes within the May 2018 revised proposal. 

Heritage permit application approved with conditions (June 2018)

In May 2018, Larco Investments submitted a proposal for a seven-storey, 164-room addition at the rear of the existing Château Laurier. City staff supported this design and wrote a report with recommendations to the Built Heritage Sub-Committee (BHSC).

On June 27, 2018, City Council gave conditional approval to the application to alter the Chateau Laurier at 1 Rideau Street, a property designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Built Heritage Sub-Committee had recommended approval of the addition’s massing and location and the proposed landscaping, but indicated that more work was required to make the addition more visually compatible with the existing hotel. 

The sub-committee directed staff to work with the applicant to visually and physically break up the massing of the addition as seen from the north. There was also direction to increase the amount of limestone used and to ensure that all façades draw inspiration from the window patterns and architectural elements of the historic hotel.

Through this decision, Council did not require that the addition be changed to a Château-style building nor that exact architectural elements be copied from the existing hotel. 

Circulation 3 (February 25 to March 18, 2019)

To address the conditions of the heritage permit issued in June 2018, Larco Investments altered the exterior design of the proposed addition and submitted new plans in February 2019.

The architect and the Larco team presented their proposal to the UDRP on March 1, 2019, and the UDRP provided their recommendations, which informed the changes made in the spring 2019 version. 

Spring 2019 design (for Site Plan Approval)

City staff wrote a Site Plan Control report to the Planning Committee (PC) recommending approval. On June 13, 2019, Planning Committee approved the site plan control application. 

Château Laurier addition

Proposal details

Larco Investments proposes to build a seven-storey, 147-room addition at the rear of the existing Château Laurier. The development proposal retains the Château Laurier in its entirety, and replaces the remaining walls of the parking garage with an L-shaped addition, which will abut limited areas on the Château Laurier’s east and west wings.

This proposed addition will also be connected to the existing hotel via an enclosed glass link running along the western edge of the hotel’s east wing. The development proposal also includes a landscaped courtyard between the Château Laurier and the proposed addition, modifications to original ground floor window openings to provide access to the courtyard from the hotel ballroom and banquet room, and a new stairway that will provide access to the courtyard from the public terrace on the west side of the Rideau Canal.

The seven-storey height will enable views to the original hotel building, especially the iconic roofline, from Major’s Hill Park and other key vantage points. The ground floor will include hotel meeting rooms, as well as publicly accessible space. A long gallery along the north wall will create a visual connection between the addition and Major’s Hill Park to the north. The north-west corner will open to the lower levels of the Rideau Canal terraces. An accessible staircase is proposed, leading from the hotel’s interior courtyard to the canal terraces.  A three-storey link is proposed above the staircase, attaching the addition to the existing building’s west wing.

Site and surroundings

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 1969, and, in 1985, Rideau Street drop-off area was enlarged and a glass front was added to Zoe’s Lounge. 

Future planning applications

A minor variance application will be required because the proposal does not meet the zoning. 

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.