New Valletta food market plans inspired by La Boqueria, Mercado de San Miguel

Arkadia Group plans to complete project by May 2017 • Parliamentary resolution for the transfer of property approved unanimously by committee

The parliamentary National Audit Office Accounts Committee has approved a resolution for the transfer of Valletta’s indoor market on Merchants’ Street with government and opposition members giving their nods of approval to Arkadia’s plans.

What was once known as the ‘is-suq tal-belt’ will be turned into a “food market”. According to Arkadia’s general manager Antoine Portelli, the end result will be “a celebration of food and culture”.

The use of the basement and the ground level were inspired by the La Boqueria market in Barcelona and the Mercado di San Miguel in Madrid respectively.

The basement will be a food market offering fresh ingredients whilst the ground floor will be about “taste”: different stalls will sell traditional Maltese dishes and light snacks, along with a bar and so forth.

The first phase of the project will focus on the refurbishment of the Victorian cast iron.

The design was approved by the superintendence of cultural heritage as part of the MEPA permit process.

Level 1 will be an open space for visitors “to wind down and socialize”.

An international call for the holistic design of the project was issued by Arkadia and an Italian company , Archea, based in Firenza with offices around the world was chosen.

A total of 20 proposals were submitted following the launch of an expression of interest in 2014 for the development and restoration of the site. The proposals submitted by Arkadia included the negotiation and financing the exit of the existing market tenants, a capital investment of €9 million plus €2 million working capital in the first two years.

The annual ground rent payable to government is of €451,250, increasing every five years according to the rate of inflation.

The deed will be signed by January 20.

Arkadia is also in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding with the Valletta 2018 Foundation and the Malta Arts Council where the premises will be used as a venue for cultural events.

Built in 1858, the iconic construction was designed by Hector Zimelli. It suffered extensive damages during World War 2 and one third of the front building was never reconstructed.

Present for the meeting was also Maria Micallef, chief operating officer at Arkadia Marketing Ltd.

PN MP Tonio Fenech said that the Opposition understood and acknowledged the utility of the project and therefore it supported it.

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