Augustinians rent out St George’s Bay land to Bay Street for 12-storey hotel extension

Land owned by Augustinian friars inside St Julian's residential buffer zone to be rented out for hotel expansion

Mendicant orders tend to adopt a lifestyle of poverty, but Malta’s Augustinian order knows better than to ignore the property gold rush on St George’s Bay.

In fact, one of the last remaining stretches of land owned by the Order on St Augustine Street in St Julian’s has been negotiated for its release unto the owners of the Bay Street Complex.

The land, currently being used as a makeshift car park, is to make way for a 12-storey four-star accommodation building and office complex, that will be developed by Bay Street Holdings, whose owners include George Muscat of GAP Holdings, and Paul Camilleri.

The order’s provincial Leslie Gatt confirmed the financial arrangements.

“There is a rental contract on the land between the Augustinians and Bay Street Holdings Ltd, so no sale has taken place, neither any temporary or perpetual emphyteutical concession,” Fr Gatt told MaltaToday.

He did not reveal any details on the rental. “No transfer of land has taken place. The property will remain that of the Augustinians,” he said.

When asked whether the Order will be benefiting from the sale or otherwise of any of the units in the complex, Fr Gatt said there was no such financial arrangement.

The development will tower over the St George’s Road, and behind the monks’ convent and St Rita Chapel.

The site area is of some 2,260 square metres, and will include 246 underground parking spaces.

Objections have already flowed in, among them from Simon Decesare, a member of the Eden Leisure Group which owns a sizeable chunk of real estate on St George’s Road, among others the Intercontinental Hotel and Eden cinemas.

Decesare said the proposed development is located in a residential buffer zone that is above the maximum height allowed by current policies, which would limit heights to four storeys.

He said the development would create a large, exposed blank party wall on St Augustine Street. “It also obstructs the view of the existing monastery on the adjacent site along Sqaq Lourdes. The same large exposed party wall is directly in front of the existing hotel rooms forming part of the five-star InterContinental Hotel. This will have a large impact on our hotel.”

Decesare said current planning policies precluded blank walls. “The proposed development includes offices, entertainment areas and a large hotel complex. It will have a large impact on the area and will not serve as a buffer between the town and the entertainment centre of Paceville. On the contrary it is extending the hotel area and the entertainment area of Paceville adjacent to the residential area.”

Decesare insisted that the residential buffer zone should only have development with a minimal impact, especially in terms of noise and operating times.

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