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Just €2,807 for extra five storeys on Gzira tower

A second application to add five storeys to the 16-storey ‘14 East’ tower in Gzira, on the site of the former United Garage, is being recommended for approval by the Planning Authority’s planning directorate

James Debono
9 August 2017, 7:41am
The PA’s board is expected to take a decision on 31 August
The PA’s board is expected to take a decision on 31 August
A second application to add five storeys to the 16-storey ‘14 East’ tower in Gzira, on the site of the former United Garage, is being recommended for approval by the Planning Authority’s planning directorate.

The planning directorate is ignoring objections by conservationists Din l-Art Helwa and the Gzira local council.

In its report the directorate tells the developers to make an extra contribution of €2,807 to fund environmental and urban improvement projects, traffic management, green transport and similar projects in Gzira, in return for the green light on the five new storeys.

The total “planning gain” for the whole 21-storey project will now amount to €32,527.45.

The PA’s board is expected to take a decision on 31 August.

The five new floors will make room for five new residential apartments.

In a submission to the authority Din l-Art Helwa expressed concern that at 16 storeys the building was already creating a negative visual impact on the area.  DLH also asked how an approved high-rise building, which applied the floor area ratio, can extend further than the original intent whilst retaining the same footprint.

But the architect of the project replied that the proposed development is already entitled to a floor space of 8,107 square metres, which will now be fully utilised.

The PA’s Design Advisory Committee, which includes within it architect Ray Demicoli – and himself an architect involved in other high-rise developments –  noted “that the additional height will contribute to improve the proportion of the building.”

However the committee acknowledged that “the scale of the building has certainly made a presence in the skyline and long range views”. But it also deemed the architectural treatment as commendable and praised the “structural expression of cross bracing on the facade, which gives an interesting dynamic look”.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage also gave its blessing to the project, concluding that the project will not impact negatively on Valletta views.

The Gzira local council objected to this development, noting that this project alone has taken approximately 40 parking spaces from the public, whilst the area around it, which is packed with shops and houses, has had to do with excessive dust and debris.

“Road closures due to this project have already led to a loss in revenue for a number of shops who have approached the local council to complain,” the council said. It also noted that the skyline has already been negatively affected and “now looks distorted from any angle one looks at it.”

No wind studies were carried out when the original 16-storey development was approved. But the study concludes that the predicted wind microclimate within and around the proposed development is not expected to be altered significantly following the addition of five storeys as a part of the proposed design. But “occasional strong winds exceeding 90kph are expected to occur near the south-west and north-east corners of the tower,” according to the report.

The case officer report acknowledges that long distance views from Triq l-Assedju l-Kbir and Hastings at Valletta and the Sliema Ferries indicate that “the proposed tall building is visually prominent”.

However, it also noted that the proposed building integrates with the urban form and skyline of the area, particularly when considering the already approved Metropolis Plaza project in Triq Testaferrata and the development potential of further high-rise buildings in Gzira.

The Gzira project, proposed by ADMG Estates, was the first high-rise development to be approved under the PA’s high-rise policy in 2015. Subsequently, the developers applied to add eight new storeys to an already approved 16-storey tower. But the application was later amended to reduce the additional storeys to five.

ADMG Estates is owned by various shareholders, including Sonnet Investments, JPK Investments, Marius Cordina and Paul Darmanin. The directors of the company are Ian Decesare and Marius Cordina.

The tower is being built on a triangular-shaped plot of land fronting Gzira road, Sliema road, and Triq ir-Rebħa, which housed the former United Garage building, 150 metres away from the Gzira parish church.

James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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