At the City Council meeting on Wednesday, July 10th, councillors eventually voted against revoking the heritage permit for the Chateau Laurier in a 14 to 9 vote. Councillor King was among the 9 who voted in favor of revoking the heritage permit. Find here the video as well as text of his speech at Council on the motion.
"Thank you Mr. Mayor, I will be voting in favour of rescinding the heritage permit for 1 Rideau Street.
While the Chateau Laurier owners have a fantastic opportunity to expand their property and service offerings, their proposed rectangular, brutalist style boxed design must be acknowledged to be incompatible with the existing building. Their addition should not be deemed appropriate for the site given the property’s importance to the history of the City and its national significance.
The property has personal significance as well to most. I know I fell in love with this City, our City when I took my first trip to our Nation’s Capital in 1986, as a kid, a son of a railroader, and stayed at the Chateau Laurier with my parents. The strong personal connections to that landmark has elicited strong emotions from my constituents who have expressed near unanimous opposition to the addition. With some characterizing it as monstrous, an inappropriate massing, brutalist blight, architectural vandalism and my personal favourite which I received: “a goiter on the neck of a stately woman.”
Most constituents have noted that the latest iteration of the design does not even approach universally accepted standards for an addition to a heritage property. But of course, the Chateau Laurier is not just any heritage property. 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.
Residents expect that such an important property should be given the proper treatment that pays homage to its history, sighting and character. Consequently, most of the residents that I’ve been in contact with see the proposed design as a travesty. Residents have also told me that this issue is not just about the Chateau Laurier but also reflects the undue influence that developers exert on our City. I believe we need to listen to our residents when they speak out but our zoning and planning decision cannot be based on pure emotion alone. They must be based on policy.
Policy dictates that the proposed extension on the Northern side of the Chateau Laurier is not only incompatible with the existing structure but with the heritage context of the site which is in proximity to Parliament Hill, the Byward market, Major Hill’s Park and the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Given the sensitivity of this pre-eminent space in our Nation’s Capital, it’s important that any proposed design is appropriate to the location. The design as it is currently proposed is incompatible with the historic sight lines of the Parliamentary precinct as outlined by Parks Canada’s guidelines. Further, the design does not meet the three conditions that were to be met prior to site plan approval:
- The new design does not include a meaningful increase in the use of Indiana limestone cladding on the building exterior to reduce its contrast and increase its bond with the existing building.
- The new design does not include the elements that are specifically drawn from and relate to the existing Chateau Laurier’s rich pallet of forms.
- The new design does not introduce patterns, details or geometric proportions that are specifically drawn from and relate to existing elements of the building.
Due to this non-compliance in design, City Council must act as careful and informed custodians of heritage and not mindless functionaries of process.
Countless heritage professionals have told us that the conditions of the heritage permit have not been met. They have also told us that the property owner has not respected the high value that our community places on the building. As such, for a landmark so iconic and beloved, I believe Council should never have delegated authority and it is time for Council to acknowledge this error and correct it.
Consequently, I’ll be voting in favour of this motion to withdraw the heritage permit and delegation to planning staff."