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Owners of Ottawa's iconic Château Laurier hotel propose huge expansion

The owners of Ottawa’s Fairmont Château Laurier are seeking to expand the iconic hotel starting in the fall of 2017.

Expansion plans include building new long-term-stay suites, creating a new courtyard and replacing an aging five-storey parking lot with new underground parking that would provide hotel guests and the public at large with approximately 100 additional spaces.

The Capital Hotel Limited Partnership, an affiliate of Vancouver’s Larco Investments Ltd. and owner of the Fairmont Château Laurier, made the announcement in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Art Phillips, the director of development for Larco Investments, said a formal application will be made to the city of Ottawa next month.

Based on pre-consultation meetings with about 30 stakeholders and initial presentations to the National Capital Commission, Phillips said the owners “feel confident that approval will be granted.”

If all goes according to plan, shovels would be in the ground late next year as celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday begin to wind down. The new suites would be expected to open in 2020.

“We’re trying to establish a precedent for hospitality in Ottawa,” Phillips said.

In an interview, Phillips expressed confidence in the performance of Ottawa’s hotel industry and its outlook going forward.

“One of the biggest celebrations, of course, is going to be the birthday party next year. And if I base it on the current bookings at the hotel, it’s going to be a sellout. I can’t project to 2020, obviously, but based on the process were going through right now we would not have proceeded unless we felt very confident in the hospitality industry here in Ottawa.”

Ottawa is one of the more profitable hotel markets in Canada, according to the latest hotel-performance report by the city’s department of economic development and innovation.

“Ottawa hotels make significant annual contributions to the local economy in terms of employment, tax revenues to the city, and marketing of Ottawa as a tourism destination,” the 2015 report said.

And with the 2017 celebrations around the corner, the report said, the outlook remains positive.

Rob Taylor, a spokesman with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said Ottawa’s hotel and tourism industries are having a very good year.

Asked about the expansion of the luxury brand hotel, Taylor told the Citizen, “I think they recognize that there’s a niche that they can fulfill there … that right now is not necessarily available in the long-term, luxury, or higher-end accommodation.”

“There are a lot of extended stays but many of them are more in the three-star space and they’re not full-service hotels. Whereas to have a marquee, full-service hotel providing that type of model, it’s a new product.”

Larco Investments Ltd. has retained Architects Alliance from Toronto, PWL Partnerships based in Vancouver and MTBA Associates in Ottawa for the preliminary designs.

Peter Clewes, the principal architect at Architects Alliance, said the renovations will provide a modern look while keeping with the hotel’s historic charm.

Phillips said the owners are open to hearing from the public as well.

“We want to give the residents of Ottawa and the business community the assurance that we’re very respectful of our neighbours and we’re here for the long term,” he told the Citizen.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury lauded the Fairmont Château Laurier team for their willingness to consult with the community at large.

“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 in a written statement provided to the media by the hotel owners.

“In terms of traffic mitigation efforts,” said the city’s John Smit, acting director of economic development, “the City of Ottawa always strives to reduce and minimize traffic impacts.”

He said that Ottawa is currently in the peak of LRT construction and that many construction projects have been accelerated in the downtown core so that they are complete before 2017.

source: Ottawa Citizen, 15 September 2016, Susana Mas