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Ignoring thousands of residents who expressed dismay with a proposed addition to the iconic Chateau Laurier hotel, Ottawa city council Wednesday voted against revoking a conditional heritage permit granted to the owners back in 2018.
“Residents view it as a pre-eminent example of Canadian iconography, one so important that it once graced the back of the 1973 Canadian bank note,” said councillor Rawlson King; one of the more impassioned pleas urging colleagues to strip Larco Investments of its development permit.
“(The hotel) should be given the property treatment that pays homage to its history, siting and character. Consequently most of the residents I’ve had contact with see the proposed renovation as a travesty.”
But the majority of councillors, including Mayor Jim Watson, disagreed.
“I recognize that most decisions to locate a modern design next to a historic design are controversial,” Watson told city council before voting to quash the motion.
“But I remind you…it is not our property. It’s not the federal government’s property. It’s private property. And as such the design rests with the architect and landscape architect determined by Larco.”
In the lead up to the vote on councillor Mathieu Fleury’s motion to revoke the permit, city planning officials indicated they conducted more than 200 meetings with the hotel owner, eliciting five designs that but for Larco, few are happy with.
More than 7000 people have signed a petition against the box store-like addition to the historic property, but according to Watson who spoke with Larco owner Armin Lalji a day earlier, the company is determined to forge ahead.
“It became clear to me they remain steadfast… and are not prepared to invest more money in a sixth design,” said the mayor, adding it was not the city’s responsibility to spend money in a legal dispute that Larco had threatened.
Ottawa city council’s vote paves the way for an expansion critics like ‘Friends of Chateau Laurier’ have described as “visual vandalism” that will forever change vistas from National Capital Commission properties that abut the hotel, like UNESCO Heritage Site Rideau Canal and Major’s Hill Park.
Barely an hour after council’s decision, the Twitter-sphere lit up with displeasure from the likes of senators on either side of the political aisle like Denise Batters and Jim Munson.
Even Ottawa’s favourite comic son Tom Green weighed in on the controversy.
“Why would you design a modern addition that blocks the entire view of the Chateau from the park?” asked Green. ” This is a beautiful jewel in our city don’t ruin it!”