High-rise and land reclamation proposed for former Jerma site

Porto Notos, a company owned by developer Charles Camilleri and Pierre Lofaro, has applied to demolish the existing hotel to make way for high-rise blocks and land reclamation

james
James Debono
26 September 2016, 4:30pm
A new project at the former Jerma Palace Hotel site is being proposed by Porto Notos Ltd
A new project at the former Jerma Palace Hotel site is being proposed by Porto Notos Ltd
A planning application proposing the demolition of the existing Jerma Palace Hotel, land reclamation works and the construction of a mixed-use development consisting of three high-rise buildings has been submitted by Porto Notos Limited.

The project also envisages the construction of a breakwater, the rerouting of the public road and extension of landscaped area around the St Thomas’ Tower.

The project is being proposed by Porto Notos Ltd, a company formed in September 2013 and owned by developer Charles Camilleri, known as il-Franciz, and lawyer Pierre Lofaro. Lofaro is married to Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro and chairs the Financial Services Tribunal. He owns 50% of Porto Noto. Lofaro’s portfolio includes shareholding in a number of other companies involved in the property business.

Camilleri who owns the other 50% of the company through White Oak Limited is a share holder in  a number of other property development companies including Develcon Limited, Camcas Ltd and Camland Holdings Ltd.

The site presently occupied by the abandoned Jerma Palace Hotel has been valued by a court expert at €20.8 million. A judicial sale by auction in October has been "suspended', according to the justice services website. The sale was ordered by the court in an ongoing case instituted by HSBC Bank Malta against brothers Geoffrey and Peter Montebello’s firm.

In the application, Camilleri declares that his company does not own the land in question but had the consent of the owners when presenting the application.  The number of storeys included in the 'high rise' blocks is not identified in the application that is still in a preliminary stage. 

Although Marsascala was not designated as a high-rise zone in the policy regulating building heights approved in 2014, another recently approved policy regulating hotel heights allows stand alone hotels located within the development zone to add an unlimited number of floors. 

The Jerma site, including the foreshore, is located within the development zone. Marsascala was also designated for medium-rise development of up to 10 floors in the general policy regulating building heights.

In 2013 the government had issued a call for expression of interest in land reclamation projects which attracted 21 proposals. None of these projects have seen the light of day so far.

The Planning Authority recently issued an enforcement order against the Montebello Borthers to clear out the site of the abandoned hotel.

The Marsascala local council has also voted against a proposal by PN councillor Charlot Cassar, urging the government to buy back the site and turn into an open space for the public to enjoy. The motion was seconded by the Labour deputy mayor, Desiree Attard.

The land originally belonged to the Franciscan Conventuals and Ivan Burridge, and was sold to San Tumas Holdings, which in turn sold it to the Libyan investment vehicle Lafico in 1976.

Corinthia used to manage the hotel through a management agreement.
The hotel was never developed since closing down in the 2000s and then sold to JPM Brothers – owned by Peter and George Montebello – in 2007.

Last year, MaltaToday reported that the Montebellos planned to redevelop the site into a complex of residential units, a five-star hotel and a yacht marina. However, their plans have been hampered by an accountant’s demands for €3.5 million in outstanding claims for his services to the Montebellos.

The accountant was last year granted a precautionary warrant in court to stop the sale of the former hotel and the surrounding land.

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