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Frequently asked questions

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


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 Château style, as designed by Montreal architects Ross and MacFarlane. This was in contrast to the initial Gothic Revival proposal. The romantic attractiveness of the Château 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 Château 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. 

Why is Larco not required to construct an addition that will match the existing building? 

The Ontario Heritage Act does not have requirements regarding the style or expression of an addition to a heritage building. If the addition were built to look like the existing building, it would be difficult to distinguish the new addition from the historic section of the building, taking the focus away from the historic visual qualities of the iconic hotel. The architectural goal of this project is to build a new addition that is subordinate to the existing heritage building so that the designated building continues to define that historic character of the property within its contemporary context. This is consistent with Council-adopted the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada which state: "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."

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

How do Heritage Planners evaluate an addition to a designated heritage building?Heritage planners base their evaluation on best practices and 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. 

For this project, heritage planners also consulted Cultural Heritage Impact Statements prepared by MTBA Associates Inc. and E.R.A. Architects Inc. These documents provided a detailed analysis of the Château Laurier, its history and architecture that assisted heritage planners in the assessment of the proposed addition. 

Why was 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 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 provided advice and offered solutions to the owner’s design team.     

Who were the members of the Heritage Working Group?

The working group included four highly respected members of the heritage community:

Robert Allsopp, OALA, RPP, MCIP
Partner, DTAH

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

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

John Zvonar, OALA

What did the Heritage Working Group discuss?

The Heritage Working Group had three all-day meetings over the course of the winter of 2017. Its discussion was wide-ranging, but the key themes that dominated the discussions were; building form, height and massing, the roofscape, the public realm and landscaping, views, fenestration and materiality and the interface with the Rideau Canal and Major’s Hill Park. Considerable discussion was also devoted to the Château style and its characteristics. 

What advice did the Heritage Working Group provide?

Among other things, the Heritage Working Group suggested that the distance between the addition and the historic hotel be increased, that the height of the easterly portion of the addition be lowered, that the roof treatment be changed, that the loading zones off MacKenzie be re-organized and the associated landscaping be improved, that consideration could be given using different materials and that the interface with Major’s Hill Park should be re-considered. 

What has Heritage Ottawa said about the proposal?

Heritage Ottawa’s statement about the agreement they have reached with the hotel’s owners is available on their web page.

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. 

Conceptual image of The Canal Character Area of the Central Area Secondary Policy Plan
The Canal Character Area

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].


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 three metres from a rear yard and 60 centimetres more than the existing side wall.