The Marriott Hotel is moving on up — 19.8 metres to be exact.
St. John’s City council voted Monday to approve a revised design by Harbour View Inns Inc. for the extension of the hotel at the intersection of Duckworth and Cochrane streets, across the street from the existing Marriott.
The application for development has been before council for about a year because of concerns about the original design as well as the disapproval of some residents who have expressed their displeasure with the proposal.
Council approved the original design in principle, which called for a pedway between the existing hotel section and the new one, but the building was proposed to be 14.8 metres tall.
A public meeting was held earlier this month for people to review and comment on the revisions, including the new height proposal, and while some supported it others objected strenuously especially about the extra two storeys.
Under the city’s regulations, buildings in the downtown can reach only15 metres, unless council makes an amendment to the development regulations allowing for the extra height, to 19.8 metres.
That’s what Coun. Danny Breen did Monday. It was accepted unanimously.
“It was previously approved, but then they filed an application for redesign and when the application for redesign came in it had to be approved again by council because it was over the height restriction,” Breen said following the meeting.
“But the approval tonight was for this specific zone amendment for that area to allow for the increased height,” he said.
According to city documents the revisions include: eliminating the overhead pedestrian link, changing the room design, and adding two additional floors for a total of 80 rooms. The height from Duckworth Street is five storeys above parking, the meeting rooms and coffee shop have been eliminated and the rear extension to the parking garage has been removed.
In a report to the city following the meeting on the revisions, there were four letters of support for the proposal and eight letters of objection.
Those who objected said they were concerned about setting a precedent, that the integrity of the heritage in the area would be jeopardized, the size and that their views would be blocked.
“Those are legitimate concerns and when these applications come in there’s various reasons why applications are rejected from time to time or approved. We looked at this one as a specific application from the developer to have an increased height and council looking at all of the information provided agreed the additional height would be required,” Breen said.
He said the height restriction in the downtown is becoming a challenge because of the economy. He said the purpose of this kind of a project is for the developer to get a return, but being able to get that because of the four storeys restriction is challenging.
When it comes to setting a precedent, Breen said one already exists.
“There’s a precedent there now because the height restriction has been allowed to be exceeded by other developments in the downtown, so the precedent is there to go above that, but it is looked at on a case-by-case basis as well as the site and the area.”
The other complaint from residents involves blocked views. Breen said unfortunately private views aren’t protected and it’s not something the city can protect.
Some of the people from the area in favour of the project said the hotel is not over the top, it will be built on a vacant parking lot, it will create employment and more rooms, and it is a beautiful project that keeps the downtown in mind.