Residents weigh in on revised Marriott Hotel expansion

Colin MacLean
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The proponents of a much-debated proposal for an extension to the Marriott Hotel on Duckworth Street in St. John’s have given the city a revised building design — and this one appears to be controversial for a whole other reason.

The building site is located across the street from the existing hotel, at the corner of Duckworth and Cochrane Streets. It is currently a parking lot.

Last year, there was much debate at council and at public meetings about the original proposal. It called for a pedway between the existing hotel section and the new one.

Some members of council and many area residents found the pedway obtrusive, and said it was not in keeping with the historic area.

However, after much debate, council approved the development in principle — giving the developers a green light.

But earlier this summer, the developer came back to council and issued a new design for the building, this one without the pedway and with a smaller overall profile.

The building is also two storeys taller — and therein lays the new bone of contention for local residents.

The original proposal called for a four-storey building, which is the same height as the existing Marriott across the street. But the new design is taller to allow for a total of 90 new hotel rooms.

The new building would be taller than the three-storey buildings around it.

There was a public meeting at city hall Wednesday evening during which people were invited to comment on the new design.

A handful of people showed up, and those who spoke were not happy.

Susan Walling, who lives around the corner from the site, called its profile “monstrous.”

“It’s a gigantic wall that goes down a good portion of a block. It’s disappointing, if I can say that. And I think when other residents actually see the plans ... they’ll be upset as well,” said Walling.

Susan Cummings, another resident, called the proposal “hostile to the downtown.”

“It’s not forward thinking for the downtown. It’s taken years to build a sense of community there and it was very much the attraction of the natural beauty of the area that drew people there — and we’re losing it,” she said in reference to the obstruction of views the building would create for homeowners and pedestrians.

Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary also spoke at the meeting. She was one of the more vocal councillors opposed to the pedway.

After the gathering had wrapped up, she told The Telegram that she was pleased with the new redesign, but also had reservations about the height of the building.

In that area of the downtown, buildings are only allowed to be 15 metres tall, but this one would be 19.8 metres tall. It would require an exception be made by council in order for it to be built.

Despite being unhappy with its height, some residents praised aspects of the building’s design.

The ground floor is actually one of two levels devoted to a parking garage. It would be semi hidden from view by a permeable screen and would be designed to look similar to the adjacent shop windows.

The upper section of the building would be multifaceted and multicoloured.

A representative of the building’s designers, Stantec Architecture, told those at the meeting that while Stantec had not completely recreated a historic look for the design, what it came up with does “pick up some of the flavour of the downtown.” 

The suggestions, questions and complaints brought up at Wednesday’s meeting will be sent to council for review in the coming days. City staff will make its recommendation on the proposal at a council meeting later this month.

Anyone who would like to comment on the change in plans can send their comments to their local councillor.

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean

Organizations: Marriott Hotel, Stantec Architecture

Geographic location: Duckworth Street

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Recent comments

  • Percy
    November 09, 2012 - 01:21

    Here we go again....the NAY Sayers.... Why don't you all get together, and leave the downtown area, and find a little tranquil place outside of St.John's. There are lots of little places were there are houses for sale. I didn't know that the City of St.John's had a law that said they will provide a view to residents of the downtown area, and there wouldn't be any development downtown. Where have I been all those years? I must have been asleep. For goodness sake get a life. We are actually living in 2012, and not in the days of Queen Victoria. I guess all of those complainers have the bucks to pay for the pipes that have to be replaced. They are 100 years old. You don't mind that your taxes will increase, if there isn't ongoing development downtown, do you? I didn't think so! If we don't have development, your taxes will increase. I forgot though, there are Money tress all over St.John's, especially in the downtown area. I must go across the street and pull a few dollars off the branches, because they are getting really heavy with all of the gold coins. Every time the word development is mentioned in the downtown area, some residents go automatically into a PANIC mode. Oh no, that cannot happen down here, I will lose my view. How come all of a sudden for the past few years, we have this so called elite group who would rather live in a cave, then have development. You are the first people to complain if your son or daughter has to move away for employment. If you want a damn view, why don't you hire a horse and buggy, and take your time, and go up to Signal Hill, and spend the day. You will get the most beautiful VIEW of the city. And, don't forget to take a lunch basket with you. Where do you expect people to stay when our City has conventions? Are you going to have them at your place of residence? With the closing of the Battery Hotel, there will be less hotel space in the city, until new hotels are built, and the extension to the Convention Center is built. The old and the new has to blend together. If something is not done with a lot of old buildings downtown, in a few years they will start to tumble. They don't last forever. I am sick and tired of hearing this little elite group of people, who are in a world of their own, obviously, say that, I don't want that development to start, because it will block my view. You must be home all day and night, sitting in the window, or out on your patio, with nothing to do, only to take in a view. Take your blinkers off your eyes, and you'll see we are living in 2012. There were people complaining about Fortis developing their own properties in the east end of downtown. Then when they went to the west end, where these people told them to go, you had a few people objecting to that. So, there is no way, in God's world to please you NAY SAYERS. If someone was building a small cat or dog house you would still complain. So, no more development in the old downtown core of St.John's. You folks will pay the City bills with your mega bucks. Folks .....we are living in a real world, NOT some fantasy land in a far off country. I say, bring on more development downtown, before these old buildings start to crumble, in front of our eyes, as I mentioned above. Is there any possible way of pleasing you people? I don't think so. I am reminded of the old saying.... MY mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts. Now, City Of St.John's....get on the ball and get the hotel started at the bottom of Springdale and New Gower Street.

  • Jon
    November 08, 2012 - 09:47

    You live downtown, in a densly populated area in 2, maybe 3 story houses. Sorry, but if you want a view, move around the bay.

  • needed
    November 08, 2012 - 08:34

    The more the city opposes development, the worse the downtown gets. St. John's is already years behind places like Halifax. What "culture" and sense of community do these people talk about? If it's old run down houses painted ugly colors then yes it's very cultural. Developments like this generate taxes, which keep infrastructure up to date. A building that's an extra 15' taller should not generate such debate. I vote for it!!! Maybe then when I drive by I will see a nice hotel there instead of a grafiti covered brick wall, or someones clothes hanging over there patio the next street up.

  • Political Watcher
    November 08, 2012 - 08:30

    Downtown belongs to everyone not just the elite few who could afford the expensive homes and no, just because you pruchased the house doesn't mean you own the view. St. John's needs this development to the benefi of all. I the downtown elite get their way we will be back in the stone ages.

  • gary
    November 08, 2012 - 08:27

    When are these people going to come out of the stone age !!! Every time some one wants to spend some money in this city you have people saying something to stop it. By the way some of these people act, they may get an approval if they tell the contractor to put some hitching post for the horses... Get in the 21st centery people !!! We all know that Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary is still looking for a place to buy her pettycoat downtown, and any new stores or changes in land marks would confuse her...

  • John Paul
    November 08, 2012 - 08:26

    It is very nice to protect our history especially in the downtown core,but we also have to blend modern architecture with old structure. I believe this project has done that. Carnells Carriage Factory occupied that site until a fire destroyed it in the late 70's. It has been vacant ever since. I think it's about time something is finally going there,it beats a parking lot.

  • rs
    November 08, 2012 - 07:45

    Just let them build the hotel. It looks amazing and the downtown core needs to look more like a downtown. If by creating a community feel you mean a number of run down homes and former buisnesses, then you have a terrible sense of community. Allowing this hotel would bring a colorful charm to that area and would be great for small local buisnesses in the area (for which there are many). Such a small portion of people downtown preventing the economic recovery of our downtown core.

  • Mark Noel
    November 08, 2012 - 06:54

    You obviously meant "... and therein LIES the new bone of contention..."