24 JULY 2002
With the Verdala Mansions opening its doors to residents in May 2003, Ray Abdilla strays from the more controversial aspects of the project as a whole and speaks to AX Holdings Property Consultant Anton Spiteri on the elite projects sales to date on the works in progress
One of Maltas most luxurious residences, the Verdala Mansions in Rabat, is unique in every sense. Although prices range from Lm120,000 to Lm600,000, owing to the projects high specifications, sales are doing well. Eight out of the 32 apartments the project consists of have already been sold, while one of the four penthouses on offer has been sold as well.
Notable Maltese and foreigners alike have already put sales inquiries forward. In fact, one reputable foreigner, Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, has already asked for information on the project. However, Sir Alex appears to be more concerned about the golf course, given his passion for the game. But the issue of whether the development will boast a golf course is now in the Malta Environment and Planning Authoritys hands to decide.
The residences boast outstanding features with 180 degree spectacular views with the horizon in the background. The apartment areas have an average area of 270 square metres and are all within the 230-340 sq.m range.
Obviously such luxurious residences cater especially for those who can afford such amenities and many important people both locally and internationally have already expressed their interest in the development.
Anton Spiteri, Property Consultant for AX Holdings, explains, "Work on the project had started about one and half years ago, while work on construction has to be finished by the end of November of this year, with May 2003 being the deadline at which the first tenants will be accepted.
"As one can see, everything has superb specifications with spacious terraces and elegant and spacious porte-cochere. The amenities do not stop there. Together with the fire system, there are underground lock-up garages or optional parking facilities available.
"The construction workers, who are all employed with AX Holdings, are experts in their own fields. The boss himself, Angelo Xuereb, frequently visits the site to see what is going on. His impetus on the project is second to none and I have never seen someone like him."
Anton Spiteri is responsible for all AX Holdings property, which he explains is a tough job requiring a seven days a week commitment.
Spiteri explains that other outstanding features the Verdala Mansions development possesses have come about through the way in which the project has been planned - with the tastes of extraordinary lifestyle in mind. The developers have used the highest quality materials and designed explicitly for comfort, privacy, space, security and quality.
Other features include individual locations for air-conditioning equipment in the basement or over the lift rooms, which provide for complete air-conditioning pipe-work installation from the main unit to all main rooms of the residence. There are also exclusive bathrooms, gypsum plastering, marble/parquet flooring and a landscaped garden in front of the Mansions including a belvedere and a landscaped common roof garden with jacuzzis.
Regarding the nationalities expressing interest in the projects residences, Mr Spiteri explains that Maltese, Americans and British are very interested in buying into the project, while he comments that he has been impressed with the demand from the Maltese. Most of them, he explains, are businessmen, retired, or semi-retired persons. Some even want to sell their current residence and retire in the quiet and beautiful surroundings.
The Verdala Mansions are divided into four blocks. The Porta Hompesch, where there are eight apartments with the prices ranging from Lm240,000 to Lm255,000, the Porta Vilhena (including two penthouses) with prices ranging from Lm240,000 to Lm500,000, the Porta Cotoner (one penthouse included) with prices ranging from Lm220,000 to Lm600,000 and the Porta Carafa, with eight apartments and one penthouse with prices ranging from Lm120,000 to Lm225,000.
Anton Spiteri added that through advertising local and foreign estate agents were informed on the possibilities of the upmarket project, which has had positive feedback, showing that despite the fact that Malta needs to become more professional in the tourist industry, it does have class.
To match the uniqueness of the project, the developers felt that a prestigious building should be complemented with prestigious names. Spiteri explains, "To this effect we decided to adopt names of Grandmasters who came from different European countries. The French Grandmaster Verdala gave his name to the whole Mansions, while for the four main blocks are named after Grandmasters Ferdinand von Hompesch, Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, Nicholas Cotoner and Gregorio Carafa."
"Malta, "he says, "is a very stable country. It has a very low crime rate and foreigners know that people can go for a walk late at night without any trouble. That helps a lot. The fact that Malta is so small also helps in that it could be used as a hub. We are in a position from where anyone can fly to practically any destination."
Mr Spiteri explains that AX Holdings could have chosen, to build 80 apartments. But the company decided that the market today needs something different. Some say there is a slow down in Malta, perhaps there is, but construction-wise, Mr Spiteri says that this development had to be different.
"We knew that such a project would be a bit difficult to fit in, but not impossible. Mr Xuereb knows that there are prospects for upmarket construction in Malta, and time is confirming what a good businessman he is.
"The one thing that Mr Xuereb hates, and not only him but all businessmen in Malta, is that in this country everyone seems to oppose everything and opposing for the sake of opposing is very dangerous. Do we want to create new jobs or not? Do we want our country to become more modern?"
"Bureaucracy is ruining our country, Why on earth does someone have to wait more than eight years for a permit? Of course we do not have a great deal of land in Malta, and one day we may have to stop building, but how can we say that now, when construction generates money and jobs. The building industry never fails or goes bust like the shares listed on the stock market. People who invest in property rarely go bust and at a point in time when there is no more space to build, property will be more valuable than gold."
Mr Spiteri said that if permission would eventually be granted for a golf course adjoining the property development, the hotel, in the same area as the mansions, would become more viable as a project. Additionally, those who live in the mansions would be better off because they could use all the facilities. But one has to wait and see, Mr Spiteri comments.
Another point in favour of the project, according to Mr Spirteri, is that the Rabat community will benefit from it as well - foreigners and tourism would increase in that area and they will surely spend money in Rabat, which is, of course is good news for the areas business community.
Residents at the luxurious property will be able to watch the sunrise from the comfort of their favourite armchair in the living room through a six metre wide terrace door. They will also be able to enjoy a served dinner for 20 persons or more on their large terrace offering a magnificent view of Malta both at day and night.
Mr Spiteri said that AX Holdings' 25 years of experience in quality development has been invaluable in creating the prestigious development, which will incorporate Malta's only 200 all-suite luxury hotel tastefully designed by one of the worlds leading interior and landscape designers. The hotel is to boast a unique design concept by incorporating a local theme that would be admired and remembered by most visitors.
The view from the Verdala Mansions, from the top of Malta, is breathtaking, with the typical Maltese landscape changing beautifully with the seasons, with the horizons in the background all along the view. A real work of art sculptured by nature, coupled with the spectacular view of the silent city of Mdina, which also offers a magnificent lighting effect at night-time.
Spiteri explained how in summer one sees all the fireworks from practically all the feasts of Malta. One has to be there to see what kind of enjoyment can be experienced.
The mansions are being built from scratch but the hotel, if the golf course receives approval, will be restructured. Verdala Palace is a fortified villa built by Grand Master Hugues Loubenx dr Verdalle as his summer residence in 1586. The choice of the hill overlooking a fertile valley and giving the residents of the villa a view of the Mediterranean could not have been more pleasant. The palace is surrounded by the Buskett Gardens, which offer refuge from the sometimes harsh summer sun.
Gerolamo Cassar, one of the most renown and prolific architects of those times had designed the palace. The square tower consists of a basement surrounded by a ditch. The stone for the palace was quarried from the ditch. The palace consists of two floors. Five-storey towers are located at each corner of the palace.
The approach to the palace is up a flight of steps across the ditch leading to the main door. On the opposite side of the palace, a balcony with steps leads to the gardens across the ditch. An elliptical staircase occupies one corner of the main floor. The vaulted Great Hall is frescoed with scenes from the successful career of de Verdalle.
Mr Spiteri said that the mansions are a work of art from start to finish. The designers are ordering the best and the rooms are to be of the best quality there is. Every item, even the plugs, is of a high standard.
"Theres no second class here," he explains, " it is only first class. That is why AX Holdings decided on such a project.
"Anything that is not first class does not go. The Maltese people have learned a lot regarding construction and property over the years. It is either the best or nothing. The quiet and pleasure of resting in such a place is something one could enjoy only when abroad, but then there is that Maltese touch that one could not find anywhere else."
Mr Spiteri, whose been in the property business for years now, believes that theres no place like Rabat. The tranquility and the people themselves are also very friendly - foreigners see it as a jewel and that is why they are interested, while the Maltese see it as a quiet place where one can rest and enjoy the view.