Watson Condemns Chateau Laurier Plan

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Has Mayor Jim Watson found another way (like the Victims of Communism moment) to make himself sound like a champion of heritage? Another way to whip the National Capital Commission?

To see how well Watson has been preserving Ottawa’s heritage, take a look today at Les Soeurs de la Visitation convent on Richmond Road … if you can see it.

Still Watson has turned on the Chateau Laurier proposal:

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27 thoughts on “Watson Condemns Chateau Laurier Plan

  1. Here is where I show my right side versus my left. Many things fall under the purview of governance.A great many of those things are very poorly handled. Health care that ignores teeth,eyes, and even prescriptions is one example of extremely poor governance. The lack of adequate social incomes and housing for the disabled , the aged and the unemployed is another. How would you like to live on around $12,000.00 per year or less and have to pay rent,food,heating,hydro and good gawd have a telephone & maybe get basic cable?

    But, when it comes to telling an owner of a property what design you like then Mr. Politician keep your nose out. Legislate building codes, height by-laws, set-back bylaws, safety regulations, etc,; but do not try to stop the owner from building what the owner thinks is good looking. It BELONGS to them.

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      1. Chaz,

        This is a heritage building, in a heritage district, that has to adhere to the strict rules of review by the NCC. This is no different than other major cities around the world, like New York or Paris.

        The real problem is the inconsistency in enforcing this rule. For example, in the ByWard Market (i.e. nearby the Chateau Laurier) you have the Marriott Courtyard which is in no way a majestic hotel design: it is plain ugly.

        Mayor Jim Watson, as Ken has stated, is far from guiltless on this subject as he has supported an endless amount of soulless, giant, glass condo towers; and his record on saving heritage buildings is weak.

        Indeed, the mistake made by the Chateau Laurier owners is that they did not present a 40-storey addition to the Chateau, because Watson would have immediately given that project the green light.

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        1. Sheridan,
          This building addition looks odd to my taste but I do kinda like it. It seems like a genuine attempt. They have combined a modern style that contrasts yet uses similar colour. It is a way to keep a heritage building yet add a modern splash. As long as it passes the bylaws then I would congratulate the owner.

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      2. Merrill,
        An opinion is always a person’s to express but as long as all the bylaws are met then the decor is up to the owner. If the mayor said, It’s not my cup of tea then that would be an opinion.

        The Mayor however said, “back to the drawing board” and in doing so he is expressing the idea that he can tell the owner that if the owner wants to continue with this then the owner better change the decor to please the mayor. As long as no bylaws are broken then the owner builds what the owner likes.

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        1. PS , under this headline I was commenting on what the mayor said. His words carry the implication that no approval coming from the city because I don’t like the decor.
          skoal,
          Chaz

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          1. Chaz,

            You are correct that the mayor is just expressing his own opinion. However, you are incorrect if you are claiming that this is just a matter of following the regular city building bylaws because the Chateau Laurier has heritage status, as designated in the Ontario Heritage Act.

            Is it your opinion that no city building should have heritage status, and therefore its alteration (renovation or expansion) not fall under any special approval process?

            As the facts stand, this project needs the approval of both the NCC and Ottawa City Council (after public consultations, as well as going through the built heritage sub-committee and the city planning committee).

            In short, if the NCC or Ottawa City Council object to the Chateau Laurier expansion design, then they have the authority to stop this project. And having Mayor Jim Watson already against this design is like the kiss of death. Therefore, one can reasonably predict that changes to the current design will be made.

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            1. Sheridan,
              I was trying to say that as long as the addition passes all of the regulations, which would obviously include heritage rules too, then the owner gets a green light.

              The mayor can’t tell from a picture whether the addition meets the regulations. Therefore the mayor’s opinion about going “back to the drawing board” was an inappropriate comment at this time.

              The owner should merely have to pass the rules as written. So let the project be scrutinized under the laws and not go “back to the drawing board” based on a painting that the mayor doesn’t like.

              Again, I am commenting on the headline here. It is about a person in authority pretending that the owner needs to go “back to the drawing board” before the damn rules are even reviewed to see if the project meets those rules.
              skoal,
              Chaz

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              1. Chaz,

                I appreciate your argument. But a heritage building design is not just a mathematical formula. Style is subjective, and rules only take you so far. Moreover, in the case of such a large expansion, the impact on this heritage neighbourhood will be profound.

                I guess your concern is that Mayor Jim Watson’s comment will prejudice the approval process. This was going to happen one way or another, namely that when the submission eventually comes before council he would still have a chance to express his opinion.

                But don’t forget that there is also public consultation to take place. This will likewise give weight to the design outcome. The public will have to live with this building for a very long time. If the majority of the public find this expansion design to be “ugly” or “out of character,” then that negative feedback can influence the project.

                Investors in heritage buildings realize that they are subject to extra oversight regarding changes to their property, and that the public are sensitive to the aesthetic quality of historical buildings. The Chateau Laurier owners recognize this and have stated that they are happy to cooperate with the approval process in order to reach an acceptable design.

                In short, it seems like the process is working properly.

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  2. Once upon a time we owned a motel. We were in the midst of doing some exterior decorating to the building. A town’s folk dropped by to express dislike of the colours we were using ( no we were not using purple nor fire-engine red ).

    I listened with great interest and smiled all during the talk. After , I excused myself and told her I’d be right back. When I came back I handed her a piece of paper. She asked me what it was. I told her that was how much money she could give me and then it would be her motel to paint any colour she liked.

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  3. Well, he can’t be wrong all the time. This time I agree with him, but then I think most contemporary architecture sucks. One thing I’m sure of, it will kill more birds.

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    1. Merrill Smith,

      Yes, Mayor Jim Watson has filled up his annual quota for being correct about a city subject, now he can safely return to his usual mode of thinking.

      As to the bird hazards, what about all the new glass towers on Rideau Street? And don’t forget that, at no less than Ottawa City Hall, in April, workers had to install temporary shielding inside a glass walkway because it had caused the death of more than 30 birds (mostly Bohemian Waxwings) during just one week.

      Sometimes, “image is everything.”

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      1. Yes there are lots of bird hazards and we keep adding to them. Supposedly the new glass envelope at the NAC is to be made of a type of glass that is bird friendly, but I’m skeptical. The original Chateau has nice small windows that would probably never result in a bird strike but apparently there are some rules against building to a design from an earlier period.

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  4. Wow, finally something that Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Mathieu Fleury disagree on. “It is an exciting project that introduces captivating architectural design to this important site for our capital city while highlighting its important heritage value and location near the Parliament buildings, Major Hill’s Park, as well as the ByWard market,” Fleury said.

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    1. Sheridan,

      Fleury changed that today. He was only commenting on the change to the parking garage. He was not supporting the overall presentation. Ha! Someone said something to him.

      I might have been born at night but it wasn’t last night. Once whipped, always whipped.

      Anne Marie

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      1. As reported in The Ottawa Citizen: “Fleury said he shouldn’t have commented on the draft design of the hotel expansion. It was the first time he was asked to provide a written comment for a press release in this kind of situation, he said, and now he realizes he should have focused on community consultation.”

        I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time.

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  5. Mayor Watson is very quick to offer his expert option on architectual design, don’t remember him being so pleasant when options where offered on LRT.

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  6. Sheridan,
    Perhaps I could put it this way.

    The NCC and the city’s Design Review Panel have already had several meetings with the owners and this proposal is the fourth or fifth already discussed.

    In the long run there will be many EXPERT heritage advocates involved. From the NCC, the city’s Design Review Panel, Planning Committee, Council; and there will be public meetings and maybe even the Conservation Review Board tribunal might get involved.

    Your mayor is a tiny cog in the process. Again I do not think that his “back to the drawing board” comment was statesman-like and it was inappropriate at this point in the long process that is yet to unfold.

    And I surely to gawd hope his comment can’t influence anyone.

    skoal,
    Chaz

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    1. When there was great debate and many opinions on the proposed I.M.Pei concept for an ultra modern pyramid addition to the Louvre; Mr. Pei and Mayor Chirac emerged after a meeting held in the mayor’s office and the mayor of Paris said that he ” was not hostile ” to the proposal. The mayor knew that there was much review to come and he did not say ” back to the drawing board “.

      I believe that that was statesmanship.

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    2. Chaz,

      Don’t get too upset with this process. By commenting on the Chateau Laurier expansion plan, Mayor Jim Watson is just acting according to his political instincts. Simply be aware that Watson’s opinion is adjusted according to the political winds, or his political alliances.

      Here are some other examples of Watson’s politics:

      1) Watson was against an arena on the LeBreton Flats. The winning bid has an arena, and now Watson says he couldn’t be happier with the choice.

      2) Watson calls the troubled Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge “over-engineered,” i.e. he would have preferred a simple bridge design. And yet, the equally troubled Vimy Memorial Bridge, Watson declares as the “Eiffel Tower” bridge, and praises its stylish design.

      3) Lansdowne Park redevelopment is constantly described by Watson using superlatives, however, the result is uninspired, boxy architecture. This mediocre, bland project beside the scenic Rideau Canal deserved far better, especially considering all the public land and money that was involved. Indeed, Watson’s response to critics of the Lansdowne redevelopment has been: “some people are never happy.”

      4) Intensification with little regard to the character and zoning of existing neighbourhoods. With Watson at the helm, huge glass towers (with mostly boring, repetitive design) are going up with city council simply rubber stamping this significant change to the Ottawa landscape.

      5) The public gets shut out from consultations about city planning until those planning decisions have already taken place, e.g. planning for the new library. Public input into city planning is simply a farce.

      In short, with the negative public response to the drawings of the Chateau Laurier expansion, Watson immediately jumped on board to score political points. Watson certainly has a right to express his opinion, even if it is “unstatesman-like,” however, Watson is the last person in Ottawa whom I would turn to for advice on building design.

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      1. Sheridan,
        Perhaps his lairdship could learn a bit more about the pulse of your city and a lot more about other matters if he read The Bulldog.
        skoal,
        Chaz

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