Updated | Villa Rosa developers push for striking tower in St George’s Bay

Anton Camilleri of Villa Rosa says that there is no reason to drag his company into the controversy over the Seabank bid for the ITS, mum over his request to be part of the Seabank bid for the ITS site

An artist's impression of the proposed tower in St George's Bay
An artist's impression of the proposed tower in St George's Bay
An artist's impression of the proposed tower in St George's Bay
An artist's impression of the proposed tower in St George's Bay
A close-up of the proposed tower in St George's Bay
A close-up of the proposed tower in St George's Bay

A striking design for the Villa Rosa area by the world-renowned Zaha Hadid architectural firm will include a 36-storey tower on St George’s Bay, and a development stretching all the way from Cresta Quay to Moynihan House in a vessel-like creation.

The designs, seen by MaltaToday, are part of a revamped proposal for the green patch at Villa Rosa and the protected Harq Hamiem valley, from developer Anton Camilleri ‘tal-Franciz’.

Camilleri, who owns Garnet Investments, is planning a mix of residences and boutique hotels, as well as retail outlets and offices for the area, which could be set for a revision in heights in an updated local plan.

The designs come a week since The Sunday Times revealed plans by the DB group, owners of the Seabank Hotel, to develop the land occupied by the Institute for Tourism Studies, whose designs include two high-rise towers.

This newspaper is informed that Camilleri was declined by the Seabank developers after he made an approach to be part of the project, now spearheaded by Seabank’s company Seaport Franchising.

The Villa Rosa project has already been shown to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and Garnet Investments is awaiting the outcome of a litigation over Moynihan House between Jeffrey Farrugia and the Lands Department: Farrugia has stated under oath that Camilleri offered him €80,000 for the tender issued by the State on the historic Moynihan House.

Controversy over development in St George’s Bay was ignited over suggestions that the ITS land would be ‘sold’ for just €6 million, although the group said it put in a higher bid. The DB group plans to open a Hard Rock hotel franchise, complete with entertainment hub and shopping mall on a larger footprint than the Tigné Point development.

Projects Malta have said they will revisit the valuation of the ITS land but the DB group has argued that this should take into consideration the price of nearby land.

No formal applications have yet been made to the Planning Authority except for the EIA forged by Garnet Investments for its initial Villa Rosa development. The investments of Garnet, DB, and Corinthia summed up will exceed €1.1 billion, turning St George’s Bay into a veritable ‘little Dubai’ as high-rise and luxury apartments becomes the new norm.

Villa Rosa owner reacts

Reacting to the publication of the Zaha Hadid designs, Garnet Investments claimed that the images showing a 36 plus tower over St George’s Bay published had breached fiduciary obligations and were not in the public domain.  They also pointed out that the images did not include the latest changes to the project and were misleading.

They argued that they had not presented the plans to the Prime Minister.  But MaltaToday can confirm that the plans were in the hands of the authorities and the project itself was discussed at high government levels.

The Villa proprietor Anton Camilleri insisted that he never approached any journalists on the matter. Regrettably, he said he had been dragged into this issue by the Seabank Group in an attempt to justify the Seabank bid for the ITS Project.  He contested what Seabank Chief executive Arthur Gauci had stated that the Villa Rosa Complex was purchased for just over €15 million when, in fact, the global price paid by Clients is just short of €32 million and this is not taking into account another part worth €4 million which is still in the process of being acquired. Camilleri said that he never intended to be drawn into this matter, they never approached the media, and they only intervened when they were approached by The Times for a clarification, after the Seabank Group thought it fit to spread false information about them.

However Arthur Gauci of SeaBank explained that the comparison with Villa Rosa still holds.  He said that that the footprint of the ITS site including all the extra footprint was around 24,500 square metres, the site of Villa Rosa, one of three sites owned by Anton Camilleri was 26,000 square metres and purchased for €15 milion.

Anton Camilleri contested the sworn statement by a certain Jeffrey Farrugia that he had stated under oath that Camilleri offered him €80,000 for the tender issued by the State on the historic Moynihan House.

Camilleri said that the Villa Rosa Project concerns a privately funded development over private land. The ITS Project, on the other hand, concerns public land and is subject to public procurement rules. There is absolutely no justification in juxtaposing the two developments or otherwise in involving Clients in the ITS controversy. He hit out stating that the Seabank Group and Government need to resolve, without the need to involve extraneous third parties. He also advised that Government has sufficient resources to determine the correct value of the ITS land in an independent manner.

Anton Camilleri did not comment about the report in the MaltaToday story that claimed that he had approached the SeaBank owners to be part of the ITS project, the Seabank owners had reneged on his interest to be part of the project.

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