The golden mile: bold planning for the elites

A new Paceville is in the offing: the Planning Authority’s master plan shows that money motivates the vision for a liveable urban space, as Malta’s investors lay claim to the St Julian’s clubland

A new master plan for Paceville is now set to accommodated 35-storey high-rise towers on the former Mercury House site, and 30-storey towers down at St George’s Bay
A new master plan for Paceville is now set to accommodated 35-storey high-rise towers on the former Mercury House site, and 30-storey towers down at St George’s Bay

A new master plan for Paceville, a tiny neighbourhood in St Julian’s which erratically grew into Malta’s clubland, is now set to accommodated 35-storey high-rise towers on the former Mercury House site, and 30-storey towers down at St George’s Bay where the Institute of Tourism Studies stood, and at Villa Rosa.

A further 26 storeys are envisioned in an area by the Westin Dragonara hotel, with a brand new tower not being excluded for the Portomaso marina site, and further low-rise development on land reclaimed by the sea, which is itself a protected marine area.

On the other side, the Corinthia hotels will see development limited to a maximum 22 storeys.

Altogether, this “prime coastal area” will consume 40 megawatts of energy – four times that consumed by Malta’s national hospital Mater Dei, and almost 10% of the country’s average consumption. A new Enemalta distribution centre will be required.

By Maltese standards, the Planning Authority’s master plan is a rare attempt at providing a comprehensive development plan that can provide public walkways along the coast, public spaces and plazas.

But underlying this vision is the necessity to accommodate Malta’s growing appetite for luxury and high-rise construction, with towers set to rise to 35 storeys and being marketed for the great white hope of the world’s global elites: so called, high net worth individuals (HNWIs).

The expected increase in car transport generated by these projects is being summarily resolved through the proposal of a tunnel beneath the Mikiel Anton Vassalli regional road. But inside Paceville, commuters and residents will be expected to walk and cycle: this tight spot of clubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses, is set to see its resident population by 7,500 and additional workers in the area will total 9,000.

The sloping skyline that the Planning Authority hopes to achieve by setting individual limits to the high-rise projects, and below, the Corinthia and Radisson grounds, once sold by the State for a pittance to kick-start the five-star holiday segment, will now see its land appreicate in value thanks to the high-rise potential
The sloping skyline that the Planning Authority hopes to achieve by setting individual limits to the high-rise projects, and below, the Corinthia and Radisson grounds, once sold by the State for a pittance to kick-start the five-star holiday segment, will now see its land appreicate in value thanks to the high-rise potential

These would include 3,964 new residents and 2,227 hotel guests living in the nine sites earmarked for new development.

Altogether, these nine developments will provide a total of 1.17 million square metres of total ground space, meaning the total area occupied by each developed storey: a 290% increase in Paceville’s developable area, to bring the total available developable area in Paceville to 1.68 million square metres. 

Lucrative plans

The nine sites earmarked for development are the Corinthia site (215,000 sqm), the ITS site (142,000 sqm), Villa Rosa (111,000 sqm), St George’s Park (233,000 sqm), the Westin Dragonara (124,000 sqm), Portomaso (234,000 sqm), Mercury House (87,000 sqm) and the Business Centre, located near the Intercontinental (29,719 sqm).

These plans have already been discussed between private investors and the government, signalling the inevitable development that will take place inside Paceville. So the PA’s role here is to avoid piecemeal construction and planning.

The main business cluster is shown in the centre of Paceville around the St George’s Park and Mercury House sites, and a small office cluster is also identified on the ITS site. Tall buildings will be restricted to the south side due to overshadowing issues caused by locating tall buildings to the west and immediate north of St George’s bay.

In these locations the buildings “will work within the skyline strategy, help provide the quantum of floor space envisaged for these sites and also prevent overshadowing of the beach in St George’s Bay”. 

The coastal areas are largely identified for hotels, all of which follow a similar approach in stepping down towards the coastline, maximising views of the sea.

Managing the high-rise revolution

The tallest buildings will be located in central Paceville, with towers of up to 35 storeys on the Mercury House and St George’s Park sites being considered suitable: “Not only do tall buildings in these locations work within the tall buildings strategy, but also they act as markers to Paceville’s central business area and are closely located to public transport.”

Furthermore, a tall building in the south-eastern corner of St George’s Park will help provide a landmark for a regenerated Paceville Plaza. Under this approach, the tallest buildings shown are those on the Mercury House site. The existing Portomaso Tower sits within this framework and is no longer a standalone building, but one of a number of buildings forming a cluster that works with the landform. 

The lower rise buildings are located along the coastline, ensuring that no building here disrupts the important views of the sea.

The tallest buildings will be located in central Paceville, with towers of up to 35 storeys on the Mercury House and St George’s Park sites being considered suitable
The tallest buildings will be located in central Paceville, with towers of up to 35 storeys on the Mercury House and St George’s Park sites being considered suitable

Building height on the 9 development sites

The corinthia site: 22 storeys. Building sites have been designed to maximise views to the sea, stepping down towards St George’s Bay and the Sea but taller buildings are allowed to create a gateway landmark to the north of the site.

The ITS site:  30 storeys. Buildings have been set out in a perpendicular way to the bay, with the largest amount of building frontage-having views to the sea. Plans envision retail, a tall office building and a shopping centre along Triq Walter Ganado.

Villa Rosa: 30 Storeys in the easternmost part of the site to minimise the overshadowing of the beach and two retain Villa Rosa as the prominent landmark overlooking the beach. The two western sites within Villa Rosa is capped at 10 storeys.

Saint George’s Park: 34 storeys. Three tall buildings are envisaged on this site. Four southern blocks will be dedicated to offices while three blocks to the north are residential. At ground floor bars and restaurants will be developed.

Westin Dragonara:26 storeys. Buildings will step back towards the Dragonara beach with a taller building of 26 storeys to the north of the site, to minimise overshadowing of coastline.

Portomaso- a low-rise approach is preferred for this site and the tallest building is limited to 15 storeys. But another high-rise tower could be acceptable.  The master plan gives two options; low rise development along the coast or “a high rise building provided its architectural treatment is of the highest quality.” Moreover since the sea around Portomaso is deemed “relatively shallow” the area has potential for land reclamation even if it is “adjacent to a Marine Area of Conservation.”

Mercury house: Mercury’s highest tower  (35 floors) will provide a prime office location.  The other towers will cater for residences.

The Business Centre (along Triq Mikiel Anton Vassalli): The two sites in this area are identified for a low-rise cluster rising to a maximum of 11 storeys.  The site will include the gateway to Paceville and access to the regional road tunnel.

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