PA board praises new Savoy design but concerned on traffic impact

Planning Authority asks for more feedback from Transport Malta on ways to address precarious traffic situation in the Savoy area between Gżira and Sliema

A photo montage of how the proposed business centre replacing the Savoy Hotel will look
A photo montage of how the proposed business centre replacing the Savoy Hotel will look

The Planning Authority’s board intends to approve the redevelopment of the Savoy Hotel into a business centre but is asking Transport Malta for feedback to improve traffic flow.

The board has expressed concern on the traffic impact of the proposed project in an area already notorious for congestion.

While the board praised the new design, which weds an iconic traditional design with a contemporary twist, it wanted further clarifications from Transport Malta.

 A final decision is now expected in 15 days’ time.

Studies have already shown that there is little scope for junction improvements in the area and that three junctions leading to it will fail by 2033 irrespective of whether the development takes place or not. However, the study also concluded that an office block is preferable to either a hotel or a residential block, which will create even more traffic.

The new development is expected to generate an average of 168 car trips on weekdays. At peak hours, the office hub will see 47 cars entering the site between 8am and 9am and 37 cars leaving between 5pm and 6pm.

The board hinted that if no infrastructural solutions are possible it will be imposing either a planning gain in the form of a monetary contribution or in the form of an agreement with the local council on embellishment projects in Sliema to be financed by the developer.

The plans envisage four basement parking levels, a cafeteria on ground floor level and six overlying office floors, including two receded floors on top of the old building and a six-floor extension over an annex building which will be demolished.

The plans also envisage the restoration of the existing dilapidated Savoy Hotel main building and the demolition of both the derelict ’annex’ and the disused fuel station within the same site.

In a design statement CVC Architecture studio, responsible for the project’s design, made it clear that the extension “is intentionally designed to contrast drastically with the original building” while “being set back” in a way that “remains subservient to the historic building” and further enhance “the original architectural fabric which will be fully restored as part of this project”.

The proposal includes the restoration, with minor alterations, of the existing dilapidated Savoy building, and the demolition of later additions including the already decommissioned fuel station located on the southern part of the site.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has approved the new design of the building.

The project’s Transport consultant replied to the concerns by pointing out that there is little to be done in terms of junction improvements.  He also pointed out that the applicant has presented a green travel plan which is aimed at encouraging office workers to car pool and use alternative means of transport.

The former Savoy Hotel, initially owned by the Cuschieri family was originally conceived as a two-storey house named Villa West End which was already constructed before 1900. The use of the building as a hotel dates back to 1904.

Since its early years, it became an identifying landmark that gave its name to the area in which it is located known as Savoy Hill or it-Telgħa tas-Savoy.

The hotel was closed in the mid-1980s when the building suffered an arson attack.