Manoel Island’s Lazzaretto to be ‘resurrected’ as casino, offices

Recommendation for approval of the Lazzaretto development to be reused as casino, offices and residential including underground car park.

A case officer report is recommending the approval of the Lazzaretto development by MIDI, to be reused as casino, offices and residential including underground car park.

The government had waived the casino concession fee in return for the restoration of Fort Manoel.

The latest proposal envisions the development of 54 apartments occupying 9,718 square metres, 6,320 square metres of retail space, 2,868 square-metre casino and a 1,950 square-metre hostel.

The latest plans represent a downsizing from the original 84 apartments set on 17,363 square allocated for residential in the preliminary outline permit issued in 1999.

The MEPA board is scheduled to discuss this application on Thursday.

The proposed works envision the demolition of parts of the building as well as rehabilitation, restoration and reconstruction works.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has declared its agreement with the restoration of historical buildings.

But the same Superintendence of Cultural Heritage strongly opposed the idea of the car park as the cutting away of rock for the construction of the car park is within the footprint of Fort Manoel.

According to the Superintendence the glacis in itself will be severely damaged with this development.

It also noted that ancient tombs have been discovered in the beginning of the 20th century in the area being proposed for the underground car park.

"It is very probable that further tombs and other cultural heritage remains will be disturbed with the development of the car park in the area proposed in the current application" the SHC said.

The excavations for the underground parking as proposed in the application entail the excavation of two to three levels partly within an area that prior to the mid 20th century formed part of the glacis of Fort Manoel. This area was not included in the scheduling of Fort Manoel.

According to the MEPA's Heritage Planning Unit the proposed area to be excavated was planned in such a manner to avoid scheduled areas and any known underground structures.

"However there is some concern that in some instances excavations are proposed within four metres of the underground magazines, and there need to be assurances to prevent damage to the underground features".

While noting the concern of the Superintendence the case officer report states that "unless parking is provided for a

rehabilitation proposal and the restoration of the dilapidated Lazzaretto complex, the project will not be feasible."

According to the report this would result in additional degradation and deterioration of this historic complex, parts of which have already collapsed in the recent decades and others are in imminent danger of collapse despite shoring. It also notes that vandalism was stopped thanks to MIDI.

One of the conditions of the permit will be an obligation of the developers is that the historic graffiti are to be individually identified and documented prior to commencement of works.

Long due development

The restoration and re-use of the Lazzaretto complex is a key component of the Outline Development Permit and the Emphyteutical Grant which made the Tigné Point and Manoel Island Development Project possible. The Outline Development Permit application was accompanied by a Heritage Studies Report that recorded the condition of this historical complex of buildings. The Outline Permit, and eventually the emphyteutical grant, envisaged that the ground floor vaults, and the historical external and courtyard elevations be retained or re-constructed if missing, whereas all constructions above ground floor level could be removed and re-built as duplex apartments. The most salient difference, between the elevations approved at Outline Permit stage and those submitted now, is that the upper floor structures are recessed back from the façade line.

The proposed development is an essential part of the overall Tigné Point and Manoel Island Development and have already been approved in principle, both through the Development Brief for Manoel Island and Tigné Point and the Outline Development Permission.

Rest of Manoel island

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority is still processing the application for the construction of 375 new residential units in the proposed 'Mediterranean Marina Village', set on 15,450 square metres of land. A prospectus issued by MIDI in 2010 fixes the total number of apartments on Manoel Island at 469.

According to Midi, Manoel Island is envisaged as "a quiet, low lying, residential and recreational environment that is characterised by space".  Buildings will occupy less than 25% of the site and large tracts of the island, in particular around the fort, are being designated as a green area serving as a public park.

An underground car park for 2,000 cars, a marina with 300 yacht berths and 30 berths for superyachts, an extensive public park, restaurants and entertainment and sports facilities, are also envisaged.

According to the master plan submitted to MEPA, the marina village will be an "open, low level" development which "emphasises the experience of the pedestrian crossing."

The highest development - rising to a maximum five storeys - is expected to take place on the right-hand side of the Manoel Island bridge, opposite the ducks' village.

In the rest of the marina village facing Lazaretto, the buildings are projected to be three to four storeys high. An open space is projected between the Marina village and the historical Lazzaretto, which is earmarked as a casino in another application.  The government had waived the casino concession fee in return for the restoration of Fort Manoel.

The project also envisions the widening of the channel leading to the island, the building of a new bridge, the reclamation of land on the north shore of the boat yard, the building of a small breakwater at the outer edge of the Lazzaretto buildings; and the creation of the sports facilities and a park around the environs of Fort Manoel.

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