Chateau Laurier expansion plans scaled back

The development team behind the controversial proposed addition to the Chateau Laurier presented a revised vision of the plan to the public on Thursday night that scaled back the size of the addition but maintained its core cubic design.

Approximately 60 and 80 people attended the meeting as hotel owner Larco Investments Ltd. presented revised plans of the development including diagrams and a model.

The original proposal called for an underground garage and a large structure at the north-side of the building with around 200 extended-stay suites. According to lead architect Peter Clewes, the new design has been scaled back by about eight per cent, and the number of suites has been reduced accordingly. Plans for the underground garage remain.

Green space was also highlighted at the presentation, as the new design includes a courtyard at the north side of the building and rooftop urban gardens in the centre of the original hotel structure. Developers hope these green additions will better connect the area to the nearby Major Hill’s Park and serve to incorporate elements of urban ecology such as beekeeping and fresh vegetation.

The Larco team was keen to defend the process that went into the original proposal, which faced a significant amount of public backlash when it was unveiled in September and led the team to “refine” the design.

Speaking to media after the presentation, Mr. Clewes said he recognizes that some members of the public would prefer a design that more closely resembles the original building. He countered that such an approach was “a way to confuse history,” and that the proposed addition, as in other art forms, is more suitable in a modern context.

“We don’t write 19th century romantic symphonies anymore, nor should we. We’ve evolved our music. (It) doesn’t mean it’s any less relevant (and it) doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful,” he said.

Mr. Clewes also took exception to the term “public backlash.” He said he found the response on social media to be unproductive and less thoughtful than the kinds of discussions he hoped would arise at meetings like this one.

“We need to take all that, distill it, and iterate it in the next design,” he said.

Mayor Jim Watson was one such member of social media who expressed his distaste for the initial design, tweeting that the team should go “back to the drawing board” after revealing its first concept to the public. Mr. Clewes said that the mayor is an important figure in the city but that he will look for more context to his comment when speaking with him in person.

Larco hopes to formally submit its plans to the city’s planning committee by the end of December. Over the course of the next year, feedback and discussions with the NCC and the city will likely prompt further refinement to the design before construction begins.