Valletta shops face eviction over St John’s Co-Cathedral museum

Lands Authority serves three-month eviction notice to Valletta shops around St John’s Co-Cathedral citing museum project security

The Lands Authority has commenced a termination of commercial leases for shops around the St John’s Co-Cathedral, in connection with the Cathedral museum project’s security.

MaltaToday saw letters of termination issued to shops on St Lucy Street in Valletta, many of them long established, informing shopkeepers that their tenancies were coming to an end.

The Lands Department said their eviction was necessary for the security of the St John’s Co-Cathedral museum project’s security and the extension of administrative offices for the Co-Cathedral’s foundation.

The tenants now have three months to vacate their premises.

The Lands Department insisted in their letter to tenants that their eviction was “in the public interest.”

The museum project will involve the extension and refurbishment of the existing museum whose access will be relocated to Merchants Street. This will entail the use of an adjacent property the government had been leasing out to commercial outlets as far back as 1929.

The massive €10 million project to extend the museum of St John’s Co-Cathedral was meant to be ready in time for Malta’s appointment as European Capital of Culture in 2018.

Already in 2016, shop tenants forced to make way for the new museum were protesting that unlike the City Gate project, no compensation or alternate premises were offered.

And although an eviction order was already issued earlier in 2016, none of the retailers moved out of their shops.

In the case of City Gate, the Nationalist administration at the time had come to a settlement with about 25 tenants – a procedure followed since 1987 each time the government was forced to terminate a lease to make way for a capital project and offer alternative premises or financial compensation.

In the past, retailers attempted to procure a court injunction to block the Cathedral eviction, with no success.

The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation is an autonomous foundation, neither forming part of the government nor the Archbishop’s Curia. But the government and the Church each have the right to appoint three members to the foundation’s council.

The foundation’s president is Glenn Micallef, and its council – appointed in August 2021 – comprises Frank Zammit, Matthew Zerafa, Mgr Paul Carmel Vella (Rector), Prof. Rev. Emmanuel Agius & Mgr Salvinu Micallef.