Joseph Portelli set to develop Jerma into hotel, apartment complex

The project will include 130 apartments, a 500-room hotel and a public square in front of St Thomas Tower

The site of the former Jerma Palace Hotel
The site of the former Jerma Palace Hotel

Construction magnate Joseph Portelli looks to develop the former Jerma Palace Hotel into an apartment complex and hotel.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Portelli said the project will include 130 apartments, a 500-room hotel and a public square in front of St Thomas Tower.

“We will inject life back into the area,” Portelli said.

In July 2019, sources had told MaltaToday that a group of investors fronted by Joseph Portelli were in the process of buying the Jerma hotel site for a reported €90 million.

A court valuation carried out in 2016 had put the value of the seafront site, which is as large as five-and-a-half football pitches, at €20.8 million.

The valuation formed part of a judicial sale by auction ordered by the court in a case instituted by HSBC Bank against brothers Geoffrey and Peter Montebello’s firm, JefPet Ltd.

Marsaskala is not identified as a high-rise zone and the plans could meet resistance, although the policy regulating hotel heights allows stand-alone hotels located within the development zone to add an unlimited number of floors.

The area has been reduced to a dump and den of abuse with residents in the area long-complaining of the danger posed by the abandoned hotel.

Portelli insisted the new development will not be a high-rise, and will be operated by a renowned international chain. He did not mention the name of the company.

“The project will blend in with the beautiful surrounding traditional buildings, shops and restaurants, and we are planning a huge square in front of St Thomas Tower, which will be able to hold large public events,” he said.

He said that despite launching a competition, for a number of international architects to submit their designs, a Maltese architect’s design was the one chosen.

“We chose a design by a Maltese architect, because he envisioned the concept differently to all the others,” he said.

On the controversial Marsascala marina, the construction magnate denied any involvement, but voiced his agreement on the project, saying it will contribute to the aesthetic and economy of the south.

“I am not trying to get involved, though. The Jerma project and the marina have nothing to do with each other and they just happened to coincide,” he said. “People in the south of Malta acknowledge that since the Jerma Palace closed, that part of the south died with it.”