By Julian Manduca
The government is pushing ahead with plans to develop Pender Place and Mercury House in St Julian’s - described by MEPA as the “last major site in Paceville with potential for significant, large-scale development.”
A development brief has been prepared and Malta Government Investments Ltd has made a call for offers for “two plots of land, in total measuring in excess of 25,000 square metres with the potential for significant large-scale development.”
According to the development brief MEPA is planning to “re-develop over three hectares of land in Paceville into a residential and commercial area.”
It is intended that the development would come complete with a landscaped pedestrian area, an underground 1,500 vehicle public car park, a new bus terminus and junction improvements.
The Pender Place site (in total 15,500 square metres) has been divided into three distinct areas: Pender Place 1 which is the commercial/residential zone; PP2 which is the main residential area and PP3 which is the residential buffer zone adjacent to The Gardens.
According to the development brief Pender Place 1 will be predominately developed for residential uses and “only along the St Andrew’s frontage, adjacent to the area designated as part of St Julian’s secondary town centre, will some commercial uses be permitted.”
The Pender Place 1 development is to be a four storey one and the Brief states: “at ground floor retail uses will be allowed particularly tourist/leisure speciality outlets,” but “as the site is adjacent to existing and proposed residential areas, entertainment uses will not be permitted.” The building of showrooms has also been excluded from the proposal.
Pender Place 2 will be a medium density (40 to 75 percent site coverage) development with an indicative maximum height of six stories. It is intended the site should include an internal piazza and a well-equipped toddlers play area. All the parking for the residents in the area will be underground.
Pender Place 3 will be the green area with medium 40 per cent site coverage. The development brief describes an area that will be heavily landscaped “particularly facing existing villas.”
Other basement levels at Pender Place should “provide 1,500 parking spaces for public use.”
The Mercury House site includes both Mercury House and the Maltacom Exchange building and again has been split into three for development purposes: Mercury House 1 which is the building itself; MM2 which is the area situated to the west of Mercury House at the north west corner of the site; and MM3 which is the area that includes and surrounds the Exchange Building.
MEPA is proposing that the scheduled part of Mercury House be retained and restored but the “unattractive” additions at the rear and all the outbuildings be demolished.
It is proposed that the internal refurbishments of Mercury House should provide uses such as “bars and restaurants, small retail units and tourist attractions,” while the area at the rear is to be zoned for outdoor cafes and similar uses.
Mercury House 2 is designed to “define the north west corner of the site, and to create an attractive space between it and Mercury House 1.” According to the MEPA Brief “Along E Zammit Street the building may be up to 8 floors high, mirroring the buildings opposite,” whereas the remainder of the building can rise in stages to about 15 floors.
That building will contain commercial uses. “Retail uses will be permitted at the ground floor, with the remainder of the building suitable for offices. If considered commercially viable, apartments and penthouses and or a restaurant can be provided on the top floors.”
Mercury House 3 will be 4-5 floors high at its south east corner and will increase to around 15 floors “in steps” towards the north and west.
The building will include commercial uses. Retail use will be permitted at the ground floor with the remainder of the building being suitable for offices. Also “If considered commercially viable, apartments and penthouses and or a restaurant can be provided on the top floors.”
The Development Brief summarises the raison d’etre behind the proposal: “Given the importance of the area for tourism and its role as Malta's main entertainment hub, the development brief ensures a comprehensive and high standard urban design that would upgrade the area. The brief addresses major issues related to Paceville particularly the road network, parking and public transport facilities.”
When a large development was last proposed for the Pender Place - Mercury House site it was intended that it be a 70-storey high rise development and it was to be The Millenium Project for Malta. That proposal was resisted by the residents and did not attract interest from the business community and was eventually scrapped. The Malta Financial and Business Times contacted GRTU’s Philip Fenech who said the business community had “Mixed feelings, with some fearing excess supply and others saying one should not hinder further development.”
Those interested in the project are able to contact Malta Government Investments Ltd and collect the relevant documentation against a non-refundable fee of Lm200. Offers are to be submitted by not later than 6 June at midday.