July 7, 2019
Mayor and City Council
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Reference: Chateau Laurier at 1 Rideau Street
Dear Mayor and Councillors,
The Chateau Laurier is a key landmark in our local community and we are sensitive to any incompatible alterations. We try to maintain the integrity, uniqueness and authenticity of our neighbourhoods as good stewards, and we wish the private owner of the Chateau Laurier to meet the same standard. The LCA does not believe the owners of the Chateau Laurier are meeting their responsibilities of owning and altering a significant historic place – a National Historic Site of Canada.
The proposed design has not been supported by the LCA since it was first version was unveiled over three years ago. Since then, the property owner has not respected the high community value we place on this building. The LCA hoped the Council’s motion from last year at the Built Heritage Sub-Committee would encourage the developer, their architects and planners to refine the design to meet the requirements stipulated in the motion.
The LCA supports the proposed motion that the developer of the Chateau Laurier have not fulfilled the conditions of the heritage permit and that Council should rescind the permit.
The LCA recommends:
· That Council encourage the owner to further develop the design of the addition to satisfy the conditions of meeting Standard 11 in the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada (2010).
· That the Planning Committee would act on the Built Heritage Sub-Committee’s resolution to: “direct staff to work with both the applicant and the National Capital Commission on a further revised plan to the proposed addition that is sufficiently visually compatible with, and sympathetic to, the existing Chateau Laurier building (that is discreet in form with character defining elements to its historical place).”
· That Council and City staff encourage the owners to explore other means of creating a publicly acceptable relationship between the addition and adjoining federal lands (Majors Hill Park, the Rideau Canal, Connaught Building).
· That Council form a special stranding committee of experts, community members, the owners and federal representatives to address this file, in particular developing clearer guidelines for the benefit of the owner.
The LCA would encourage an ongoing collaborative effort with the owner and to take any means possible to discourage and dissuade threats of legal actions by the owner. It is clear that in this case there is ample ethical justification to side with the public’s valuation of this building within a local, provincial, national and international context. The Mayor’s recent statement on the private rights of the owner to select their own design and designer is correct; however, it avoids the ethical and social responsibility of governing for citizens and not an individual property owner.
The City’s decisions affecting land use planning matters should be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (section 3 of the Planning Act) by “encouraging a sense of place, by promoting well-designed built form and cultural planning, and by conserving features that help define character, including built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes;” (Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, Section 1.7.1). Well-design built form is of public value in this case because the building is a prominent national landmark.
The LCA does not agree with the conclusions of the conservation architect’s Cultural Heritage Impact Statement (CHIS). The conclusions from the heritage consultant (ERA Architects) are not impartial because this firm is the sub-consultant to the design architect, and in turn employed by the developer.
Lowertown is an urban community that values the integrity of its heritage buildings and spaces. We have two heritage conservation districts and many heritage buildings, both publicly and privately owned. We understand that the Chateau Laurier is a private property within a larger landscape on federal and municipal lands, and there are jurisdictional implications due to its prominence within the federal precinct.
The LCA respects the hotel’s wish to build an addition. In the news, the debate has centred on the architectural expression of the addition. There are aspects and features of the design that are positive and beneficial to enhancing the site, but the design has not met other criteria for a compatible addition.
Heritage is about retaining the integrity and authenticity of values: social, architectural, historic, economic, associative etc. These intertwining values of place can produce exceptional and deeply appreciated expressions and emotions for many generations. This sense of place was understood by the designers when the hotel was built (the sublime and picturesque landscape beside the Rideau Canal, connected to Parliament and as the gateway to the West). The architect of the second addition also understood the meaning of this place. The current architects have not embraced all values of the place, and the consequence is a poor addition and a negative public outcry – which has an impact on our community and our communal values.
The LCA supports the motion being put forward to Council.
Lowertown Community Association
Association communautaire de la Basse-Ville