An artist's impression of the proposed car park extension project.
Small Business Minister Jason Azzopardi this morning announced plans for an extension of the MCP car park, the plans of which are yet to be approved by Mepa, and planned to kickstart within three months from the Authority's approval.
The car park will eventually host a total 1,150 cars, including the 402 new car spaces.
Azzopardi said he presented a resolution in Parliament this morning to extend the lease of the car park by a further 65 years once the current one expires in 2041.
According to the minister, the operator of the car park is contractually obliged to invest five million euros in the new project, rent out 100 out of the 402 new spaces to government for public sector employees at a minimal annual fee, maintain the public garden planned to be built on top of the car park at street level at Environment Landscape Consortium (ELC) standards, while also barring the operator from the setting up of retail outlets, except for a car valeting service or sports facility such as a gymnasium.
When asked by MaltaToday if it would be feasible for a car park operator to run a car park with the above-mentioned contractual obligations, Azzopardi said that government's proposals weren't at all easy to propose to the operator but it was definitely a "win win" situation.
"Following talks with the Valletta business community and hearing out their suggestions, it was established that through this project the public would have better accessibility to the city which in turn would benefit the business community in terms of growth."
He added that the fact that the car park cannot host any retail outlets will once again benefit the existing business community since business in the inner core of the city wouldn't be effected.
"The hardest part was to explain to the operator that the car park could not host any commercial outlets," Azzopardi said.
As things stand, the duration of the lease is 50 years (which kick-started back in 1991) and expires in 2041. The current annual ground lease of 23,000 euros, revised every 25 years (twice in 50 years), will rise to 200,000 euros annually and will be revised every 10 years.
The architect responsible for the project, Ray DeMicoli, said he was very excited about the new project and it would give the car park a highly improved facelift as a result of the planned landscaping works. The works are ready to start once Mepa approves the plans."
DeMicoli, who forms part of architectural firm Demicoli & Associates, is responsible for big projects such as Portomaso, St Julians and the current restoration of Fort St Elmo.
MCP car park operator Saviour Ellul said works on the project would be conducted during off-peak hours to reduce any inconvenience that would hinder the traffic flow in and out of Valletta.
He also added that those visiting the city could still make use of the car park while the works were being conducted.
The project will also serve as a link to surrounding public gardens and other amenities, including the cruise ship terminal.
"Since the project would see the inner part of the car park being built up, this would hardly effect the current works," he said.
Azzopardi, meanwhile, said that the General Retailers and Traders Association played a vital role in the project since it was highly cooperative during discussions held between government and the association.
Towards the end of the conference, GRTU president Paul Abela, jokingly suggested: "I hope that Mepa won't take the whole 94-year tenure to issue the project's permits."