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.