Correspondence to Mayor Watson and Members of Council, signed jointly by Art Phillips and Dennis Jacobs, written on behalf of the Capital Holdings Ltd. the owners of the Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel.
Dear Mayor and Councillors,
We are writing to you as the Director of Development for Capital Holdings Ltd., the owner of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, and as the lead consultant on this project. By way of background, Art Phillips has worked with the parent company Larco Investments Ltd. for 32 years, and Dennis Jacobs, of Momentum Planning and Communications, was engaged to be a local point of contact and to manage the approvals processes in February of 2016. Dennis Jacobs’ past public sector experience has been that of the Director of Policy Planning for the City of Ottawa from 2000 to 2007.
We can attest to Larco’s keen interest in, and commitment to, this project and their desire to design and construct an addition on this site that will be a lasting benefit to the hotel property and to the community as a whole. It is their commitment to quality and community engagement that led us to conduct a selection process involving leading architects from across Canada and kept us and our architectural team at the drawing board since the fall of 2016, working hand and hand with local stakeholders, both professional and community based, as well as City staff.
On June 27, 2018, and after this extensive community engagement, City Council unanimously granted the conditional approval of a heritage permit based on the massing, height and building footprint presented in May 2018. We were directed to work on alterations to the facade and form to achieve the design objectives clearly outlined in the approval. Final approval of the Site Plan Control Application was taken back from staff and given to Planning Committee to ensure that elected officials made the final decision on the proposal based on professional staff input.
On June 13, 2019, the Planning Committee granted a final approval of the site plan and accepted staffs recommendation that the design objectives related to the heritage permit had been achieved to their satisfaction.
Even though the land is privately owned, we understood the potential impacts on Federal lands and so we actively consulted numerous times with the NCC’s design review panel and staff. Given the site’s location adjacent to the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we actively sought the input from Parks Canada and have a letter indicating their general concurrence with the design as presented to the Planning Committee.
We have followed the Parks Canada Standards and Guidelines which require the addition to not replicate the historic Chateau but to remain distinct and of its time. We have also complied with Ottawa’s view corridor requirements, protecting the significant views as required by the Official Plan.
As well, we have voluntarily considered the NCC guidelines prepared in 2008 specifically for the Fairmont Chateau Laurier property in the design review process. I say voluntarily because these views, which include those from Major’s Hill Park, are not governed by any City of Ottawa policy or by-law and at the end of the day, the approval of the proposed site plan and building design is a municipal responsibility under the Planning and Heritage Acts of Ontario.
It is very regrettable that we find ourselves today being castigated for being responsible participants who followed all the right processes. After extensive community engagement, and extensive consultations with governmental authorities, we received a conditional heritage permit, which by the way was drafted by Mr. Barry Padolsky, as co-chair and Mr. Tobi Nussbaum, as chair, of the City of Ottawa’s Built Heritage Committee. We subsequently received a positive staff report from the City of Ottawa, and that report was adopted by the Planning Committee and Council.
Further we feel that all of Council should be aware that Mr. Padolsky’s opposition to the project may not be for altogether altruistic reasons. At the outset of this project, Mr. Padolsky was considered, but not chosen as the lead heritage architect on the Fairmont Chateau Laurier addition. Given the importance of this debate, it is our opinion that Mr. Padolsky should have made the public and members of Council aware of this perceived conflict of interest when the application was first presented to the Built Heritage Committee.
We recognize that there has been significant controversy in Ottawa over our proposed design. Everyone has agreed that the above ground garage previously occupying the site had no heritage value and served only to limit any physical connection with Major’s Hill Park. However, what we have learned over the last three years is that there is no unanimity on what should replace the garage. If the addition were to replicate the Chateau it would be inconsistent with Parks Canada standards, blurring the authenticity of the original Chateau. And, it would be inconsistent with municipal policy, which requires the addition to be tucked below the original hotel’s iconic skyline to ensure its prominence and visibility from the park and all other significant views.
It is with the greatest respect that we seek your support in allowing this project to proceed based on the approval rightfully granted on June 13th by Planning Committee.
Art Phillips, Director of Development at Capital Holidings
Dennis Jacobs MCIP RPP, Principal Planner at Momentum Planning & Communications