New MIDI Masterplan for Manoel Island contemplates a significant increase in public open spaces

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 February, 2021 at 1:27 pm by Andre Camilleri

MIDI plc has submitted a revised masterplan for the restoration and development of Manoel Island to the Planning Authority (PA) and a revised Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Environmental Resources Authority (ERA).

The revised masterplan contemplates that the footprint of the new buildings to be developed on Manoel Island will be scaled down from 26% to approximately 10% of the site area and the gross floor area of the new buildings will total 55,000sqm compared to the 95,000sqm as contemplated in the Deed of Emphyteusis entered into with Government (Deed). 

The revised masterplan aims to create a more sustainable development, which boasts 192,000sqm of open spaces, of which 175,000sqm is public open space (equivalent to twenty-two football pitches). This represents an increase of approximately 20% when compared to the Deed and includes two significant open spaces, namely an 80,000sqm Glacis Park surrounding Fort Manoel and a 35,000sqm open space at the entrance of the Island.  

MIDI CEO, Mark Portelli explained that, “the decision to revise the masterplan is a result of the site investigations carried out, during the last twenty-four months, under the supervision of an independent archaeologist approved by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH). The areas investigated were highlighted, in the Cultural Heritage Report which formed part of the original EIA, as archaeologically sensitive requiring further investigation. The investigations established that a large part of the site, which was previously earmarked for development, is of archaeological importance. This prompted us to draw up a new masterplan for Manoel Island.”

Apart from the reduction in the area to be developed the revised masterplan does not contemplate the reclamation of the sea area immediately in front of the Gzira promenade. Mr Portelli explained that “a decision was taken to eliminate the land reclamation, as contemplated in the Deed, in order to reduce the impact of the development on the marine environment and the Gzira community.” 

The revised masterplan contemplates a complete overhaul of the existing yacht marina in order to provide safe berthing for yachts of varying size. However, protection will be provided by a floating breakwater thus mitigating the environmental impact associated with developing a solid breakwater. Furthermore, the existing slipway, which is situated on the north side of the Island and used by local enthusiasts, will be upgraded as part of the development.  

The commercial component in the revised masterplan is sensitively designed around the Cattle Shed and the Customs House to complement the new public area which is being provided in the heart of the development. 

In accordance with the provisions of the Deed, no efforts have been spared to ensure that all the heritage buildings will be restored and given a new lease of life, in particular the Lazzaretto which will be used for mixed use and hospitality purposes. The restoration of the heritage buildings will be undertaken at a cost estimated at more than €40 million, which includes the works already undertaken to restore Fort Manoel to its former glory.  

Furthermore, MIDI will develop sports facilities which will revert back to Government for the benefit of the local community. The facilities include a full size football pitch for Gzira United FC and a Bocci Club. 

Mr Portelli added that “The Manoel Island Foundation, which was set-up by the Gzira Local Council and MIDI, will continue to act as guardian in line with the Guardianship Deed, thus ensuring that the public interest is safeguarded at all times, in particular with respect to access to the foreshore, protection of the heritage buildings, the provision of public open spaces and building heights.”   

In conclusion Mr Portelli said that “as a responsible developer MIDI will continue to work closely and transparently with all stakeholders, by listening, engaging, and providing updates throughout the project, thereby ensuring the delivery of significant benefits to the community for the long term.”

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