New 14-storey tower proposed in Gzira

Wembley ice-cream factory gets ‘Empire State’ redesign, while Paul & Rocco petrol station is now proposed for 14-storey tower

The Paul & Rocco petrol station in Gzira
The Paul & Rocco petrol station in Gzira

Yet another new, 14-storey tower is being proposed in Gzira, right between the proposed Metropolis skyscraper and the proposed Wembley factory structure.

Gzira is in fact set to have another two new towers, an 18-storey structure on the site of the Wembley ice cream factory, and then a 14-storey tower on the site of the Paul & Rocco petrol station, right next to the shuttered Empire Stadium – which will complement the already approved, but yet to be constructed 33-storey Metropolis.

Plans for the ‘Wembley’ tower in Rue D’Argens are vaguely reminiscent of the 102-storey high Empire State Building of New York, and incorporate the façade of Wembley’s ice cream factory.

The facade will be reconstructed identical to the existing one, and shifted in the centre of the plot after being carefully “dismounted” and the stones numbered, re-erected” and replaced as necessary.

The application also includes four levels of basement car park.

Emil Bonello Ghio on behalf of Wembley Ice Cream Factory Limited has presented the Wembley application.  

The Wembley factory completed in 1937
The Wembley factory completed in 1937

A spokesperson for the company told MaltaToday that the aim of the project is to address the growing demand for office space in the country, which could possibly rise after Brexit.

The plans for the project are being prepared by architect Ray Demicoli, a member of the PA’s Design Advisory Committee, the panel advising the authority on the design of new buildings.  Demicoli abstains on any discussion about projects in which he is involved as architect. 

Unlike the neighbouring Muscat Motors building, which was granted protection together with various other modernist buildings in 2012, the ice-cream factory has not been scheduled by the PA. The Mira buildings, demolished to make way for the Metropolis development, were also not scheduled.

The Wembley factory was completed in 1937, designed by Antonio Grech Dimech. 

The building is described as one of “the best examples of pre-war industrial architecture in Malta” by architect Edward Said in an article published in the Architect, the Chamber of Architects’ journal.

The other application on the Paul & Rocco petrol station site, which is still at a preliminary stage, foresees the demolition of the existing petrol station and the excavation of two levels of underground parking. A showroom is being proposed at ground floor and mezzanine level and offices are proposed from the second to the 14th floor. The proposal includes landscaping works at street level in line with the floor area ratio policy.

The two new high-rises are being proposed in the vicinity of the massive hole excavated for the 33-storey Metropolis Tower, whose foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister in April 2015.

The project is the property of Jalul Husni Bey, one of the scions of the Husni Bey Group of Libya, which have interests in retail and foodstuffs importation across North Africa, Malta and Italy. 

Gzira is one of the localities earmarked for high-rise development in a policy approved by the Planning Authority in 2014. The PA has already approved a 16-storey tower on the site of the United Garage site.  On 31 August the Authority is set to add five extra storeys to this development.  

Just off the Rue d’Argens road in Gzira, Gozitan developer Euchar Vella’s firm Karkanja is  also proposing the construction of two interconnected towers – one rising to 13 storeys, and the higher one rising to 29 on the site of the Golden Harvest factory.

Work is also underway in Gzira for the 14 East tower, on the site of the former United Garage. The tower will now climb to 21 storeys after originally getting a permit for 16 storeys.

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