[PHOTOS] Villa Rosa: €305m high-rise will have 789 serviced apartments to house 24,000 'tourists'

Anton Camilleri will self-finance the Villa Rosa development at St George’s Bay that will generate 2,214 cars a day but offer 11,000 square metres of open space

The proposed development
The proposed development

Two ‘iconic’ towers of 27 and 34 storeys will rise over St George’s Bay to host 789 serviced apartments, 247 hotel roomes and a total 16,000sq.m of office space in a project from developer Anton Camilleri, his son Adelbert and Garnet Investments.

With hotel rooms and offices in clusters of lower buildings, the massive high-rise will dominate the St Julian’s beach under a policy allowing standlone hotels to rise above height limits.

“This is not a more of the same project. We are aiming at excellence and quality setting trends for the entire country and the Mediterranean,” Adelbert Camilleri says, who adds that the shift to short-term rental apartments with 5-star hotel amenities is part of a global, post-pandemic trend. “They will generate less traffic than residential apartments, mostly cartering for short stays without a need for car.”

Garnet already has a permit for a low-rise development encircling the bay, which includes a four-storey hotel on the Cresta Quay site – which will be retained – and a commercial and residential development adjacent to Bay Street and on the Moynihan House site, which will be demolished. The plans have removed 15 villas in the valley, which the ERA had objected to, with the permit’s validity now extended to 2028.

Anton Camilleri justifies the increased volumes of the project, with gross floor area rising from 141,000sq.m to a staggering 237,000sq.m, by referring to an 11,000sq.m ‘Pjazza Tritoni-size’ open square along the beach. The area around the restored Villa Rosa will be retained as a 5,600 q.m private garden landscaped with indigenous trees and shrubs. “Investing in an iconic high-rise is more expensive to build than just building the whole site conventionally. Instead of covering the whole site with 12-storey buildings we are creating open spaces which upgrade the surrounding area.”

They say the daily upkeep of public spaces also comes at a substantial cost, since only 42% of the footrpint will be built, making the new public space the largest in St Julian’s.

Shadowing studies claim to show a minimal impact in summer, Camilleri says of his self-financed €305 million project that will be designed by Dutch firm UNStudio, designers of the Arnhem railway station and the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

Camilleri said he is adamant in excluding any negative impact on the Ħarq Ħammiem subterranean cave which he insists lies outside the boundaries of the project. According to Camilleri, the equipment used in excavations will not create vibrations which are harmful to the cave.

What the EIA says

An Environmental Impact Assessment prepared by ERSLI Consultants on behalf of Garnet Investments refers to local plan policies that limit building heights of hotels to six storeys and an overlying penthouse stepped down to 2 floors in the area adjacent to St George’s Bay and the Villa Rosa gardens.

The local plan also states Villa Rosa and its grounds should “be developed in a manner that does not compromise the visual integrity of the Villa.” But the project is being proposed under the Height Limitation Adjustment Policy for Hotels, approved in 2014, which permits “standalone hotels” to rise above height limits. In this way the two towers hosting the 789 serviced apartments will benefit from this policy.


The EIA focus on the high-rise shadows shows that the impact is expected to be greater in the winter months than in summer. In December the shadows of the buildings will affect parts of Pembroke’s residential zones until 2pm. In the same period the sandy beach will be affected by the shadows of the new buildings at about noon, with the impact being felt till the evening.

In spring and autumn, buildings in the area will overshadow the valley till 10am, with the shadow lasting till 1pm. In the same period the shadow of the southern cluster will start affecting the beach at about 1pm. At about 3pm, it will be joined by the shadows from the northern cluster, until both shadows will cover most of the bay by 6pm. The significance of the impact on the beach would range from “moderate to high”, depending on the time of day.

In June the shadows of the northern cluster will appear on the beach at 4pm. Initially these will cover about 50% of the sandy area. By 6pm these shadows will cover “all the sandy beach”.

Overall, the EIA concludes that this impact of shadowing throughout the year will range from “low to moderate” given that the impact of shadows “varies from season to season and during the day”.

Microclimate: windier in winter

Pedestrians will encounter “uncomfortable wind conditions” during the winter season. But the study also includes mitigation measures to address these impacts. These include the installation of planters and 3m- -tall trees and moving the intended seating area to an area with calmer sitting use wind conditions.   

Focus on daily car trips

In the excavation phase, five construction vehicles will be entering and exiting the site every hour on each working day, resulting in a maximum of 160 inbound and outbound heavy vehicle trips per working day. This will drop to 80 trips when the first phase of the project is completed. On completion, an additional 2,214 car trips will be generated by the offices and hotels on a daily basis, 55% of which by private cars while 45% will be generated by coaches, mini-buses, taxis, carpooling, and public transport. The development will include 1,365 parking spaces.

Impact on cave to be strictly monitored

The north-eastern corner of the Villa Rosa site is located close to the underground Għar Ħarq Ħammiem. But since the ceiling of the cave is located 23m below excavation level, the impact will be limited. EIA consultants recommended a “a chainsaw cut to be made at the closest excavation line to introduce an air gap between the site to be excavated and the cave”. Works in vicinity of the cave will be continuously monitored during the works. The EIA concludes that the level of significance of the impact on the cave “would vary from insignificant to high depending on the quality of construction site management.”

215,000 cubic metres of construction waste

Construction will take five years, with close to a year for demolition and excavation, which will generate 215,000cb.m of topsoil and limestone (lower coralline and lower globigerina), that is expected to be disposed in Camilleri’s own quarry, potential re-use.

Noise and vibrations may disturb birds and bats

Noise and vibrations during construction is likely to disturb birds, bats, and small mammals, particularly in Wied Ħarq Ħammiem, and may cause these to relocate from the site and adjacent areas.

But the EIA notes that considerable excavation and construction has already taken place in the surrounding areas, presumably generating a similar impact.

Cultural Heritage: Palazzo’s dominance will be challenged

The dominance of Palazzo Villa Rosa on the landscape will “be challenged by the presence of the two towers”. Excavations next to it and the underground Ħarq Ħammiem cave will be planned and managed in ways designed to “protect the integrity of the building and features in question”. Close attention will be needed to safeguard the integrity of the Palazzo and a tunnel underneath the garden. The level of significance of the impact would vary from “insignificant to high” depending on the quality of construction site management.

Visual Impact: No right to a view

The impacts on both the landscape and visual amenity are expected to be of “high significance”, given the scale of the development. “One should expect these impacts to be considered adverse by receptors who have an intimate familiarity with the area (e.g., long term residents) and neutral by others who are either visitors or employees in the business establishments in Paceville.”

But while the blocking or intrusion of views is an adverse impact, the EIA says the protection of existing views is not generally regarded a material consideration when development applications are evaluated and determined.

Economic impact

Consultants E-Cubed say the project will generate €74.8 million in value added with an overall economic impact of €116.4 million. Investment in construction over five years will cost over €305 million, but over the next 65 years, the internal rate of return (IRR) will be of 10.78%. The need for serviced apartments for longer-stay tourists, digital nomads and retirees, a specific niche, are built on future projections of 3 to 3.2 million tourists annually, 24,000 of which will be hosted at Villa Rosa.