PA approves business centre on iconic Savoy hotel site

PA board impose €40,000 planning gain to compensate for traffic impact of project

An artist impression of the proposed development
An artist impression of the proposed development

The Planning Authority’s board approved the redevelopment of the Savoy Hotel on top of Rue d’Argens into a business centre but has imposed a €40,000 planning gain to be used for urban improvement projects in Sliema and Gzira.

The project was approved by eight board members against one, namely NGO representative Romano Cassar who expressed concern on the precarious traffic situation in the area which cannot be mitigated by any planning gain.

In the last meeting the board had asked for feedback from Transport Malta on whether any measures can be taken to improve the traffic flow in the area. 

Transport Malta replied that there is no scope for infrastructural improvements confirming their previous comments that from a traffic perspective an office development is better than a residential one.

The applicant insisted that the project itself is a planning gain as the applicant has decommissioned a petrol station which formerly existed in the area.

For this reason, the planning gain was reduced from €53,300 to €40,000.

NGO representative Romano Cassar insisted that the planning gain itself will have no impact on people stuck in traffic in the area.

An objector to the project expressed concern on a proposed restaurant included in the plans.

In a meeting held two weeks ago, the board had 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.

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 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 had approved the new design of the building.

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 and the building was subsequently the target of vandalism and arson.