A new proposal for the Parliament Oak property in Old Town is in the works.
Residents of the neighbourhood around 325 King St. received letters last week informing them Two Sisters Resorts Corp. has plans to build a boutique hotel on the property.
The letter, from LURA Consulting Inc. on behalf of Two Sisters, asks residents for an “open dialogue” about the property.
“We are contacting you because we recognize this may interest you and your neighbours,” says the letter, signed by Liz McHardy and Franca DiGiovanni.
The letter says the company specializes “in speaking with neighbours about a variety of policy and planning or construction projects.”
“A new application is being advanced with the town for a new boutique hotel,” the letter continues.
“Two Sisters Resorts Corp. has identified that an early dialogue will be beneficial to ensuring the circulation of accurate information and the fostering of a respectful and open dialogue.”
According to an email to an area resident obtained by The Lake Report, DiGiovanni said Two Sisters is applying for a zoning change and official plan amendment to allow for a “four-storey, 129-suite luxury hotel with a restaurant, bar and event spaces.”
“The site will also include on-site greenspace and underground parking as well as eight surface parking spaces,” she said.
David Riley, a consultant with Toronto-based SGL Planning & Design Inc., said the lot coverage will be 22 per cent of the property. The current footprint of the former school building is 17.9 per cent of the lot.
Riley added that there would be less asphalt and driveway space, too, covering 11.3% of lot area, instead of the current 16.6 per cent.
The building itself is meant to complement the historic look of NOTL, Riley said.
“Part of the design intent is really to have this building fit into that historical context that exists in the area,” he said.
“The architects really had that in mind when they were designing this — and the owner of the site is certainly interested in making sure that this this building fits in well to the community.”
He said the design also “reflects architectural elements and features of the original house, the Plumb residence, that once existed on the site prior to the school building.”
The new build will be more centred between Gage and Centre streets, with the main focus of the building remaining toward King Street, Riley said.
The building will be about 23 metres from Gage and 24 metres from Centre, so it has “some distance from the street.”
The plan is to “bring it as close as we can to King Street to also have that open space area in the back, which will be part of the hotel but accessible to the public,” Riley said.
He said the open area would be greenspace with no outdoor buildings or conference centres.
“That’s where we’re proposing to have some commemoration of some of the heritage elements that are on the current school building and on the property,” he said.
Closer to Regent Street there will be a public area with a stone wall, where they will preserve the two stone engravings that are inlaid on the front of the school, he said.
The stone engravings “really commemorate what happened on this site and why the site is significant,” Riley said.
“As you know, one of the meetings of Parliament happened on this site. So we want to keep those plaques,” he said, adding he thinks it will be a “nice tribute to the site.”
And a 300-year-old red oak tree at the front of the school will also be preserved, he said.
Landscape plans and drawings will be available once the project is further along in the approval process.
Asked whether the landscape would be similar to the Pillar and Post’s “Monet” Gardens, he said it will be similar in that it’s open to the public, but it will have more open space and fewer paths.
Two Sisters purchased the property on Oct. 26, 2022, for $8 million. At that time, company owner and developer Benny Marotta told The Lake Report he was considering a hotel for the property.
Marotta did not respond to interview requests by publication time.
The letter from LURA acknowledges there “may be great interest in this site from residents.”
“As the application process advances, this dialogue will also be helpful in circling concerns and inquiries from the community back through to the project proponents/applicants.”
In 2021, residents strongly opposed a proposal by the previous owners to build a 71-unit apartment complex on the site, claiming it could mean the potential “wholesale destruction” of Old Town.
A group called Preserve Our Special Town (POST) was formed by area residents to fight the development.
The proposed development will “replace the previous application for the site which was at the OMB for hearing.”
POST founder Alan Gordon said he thinks a hotel on the property is “completely inappropriate for the site and totally inconsistent with the official plan.”
Riley said there will be opportunities for public engagement.
“We’re looking forward to and open to, to those comments when we get to that point in the process.”
With the town’s two per cent accommodation tax (rising to three per cent in 2024) hotel stays are a big revenue source for NOTL. The tax goes toward tourism development and infrastructure.
A 129-unit hotel at 75 per cent year-round capacity and an average cost of $800 nightly could add about $565,000 annually to the town’s tourism promotion coffers.