Editorial | Investing in Valletta’s complex tapestry

The capital today is unrecognisable from what it was up to a decade ago when it served as a shopping hub during the day with no life in the evening


Valletta is the most recognised Maltese brand globally, according to one of the directors of the VBL Group, a property investment company focused specifically on the capital.

His assessment is obvious as much as it is very often overlooked when Malta is marketed abroad as an attraction.

Valletta is a walled city that has history oozing from every square metre of it, above and below ground. But it is also a city that has regained vibrancy over the past decade that makes it a go-to place for work, dining and entertainment.

Unfortunately, Valletta has lost its retail supremacy over the years with shops closing down, moving out or changing into food and beverage outlets. The shopping experience in Valletta today lacks diversity and may not be catering to the changed demographic that moves into the city in the evening for entertainment purposes. The time may have come to consider having shops open at 10am and close at 10pm.

VBL is now promising a luxury shopping complex in Zachary Street that will be developed over the next three years and positing this as a chance to kick-start a rejuvenation of the retail sector in the capital.

If the project does deliver what it is promising, it could lead other retail outlets in Valletta to up their game, renovate and diversify.

VBL’s belief in Valletta’s potential as an investment opportunity is positive and is part of the massive investment, both private and public, that has been pouring into Valletta’s infrastructure and economy. Other private companies like Iniala and the Hili Group have also invested big in the city.

However, this has also exposed the reality of disparate development within the city and the need to have social rejuvenation happening alongside commercial and high-end investment.

Within this context, the government must consider the realities of ordinary people who live in the capital with no financial resources to invest in improving their own properties or life situation.

Government has embarked on an ambitious investment worth more than €20 million to address the imbalance between the lower and higher Valletta areas. The investment is targeting the Marsamxett area, which is home to a large native population but also an area that has not benefitted much over the years from private investment.

The government’s objective is to improve the quality of life and instilling a sense of well-being in residents. It also aims to protect the built environment and sustain a vibrant economy in this part of Valletta.

In doing so, government must guard against gentrification that pushes Valletta residents out because their surroundings become too expensive to live in. There is a delicate balance to be achieved between attracting wealthy, young professionals to live in the city and retaining existing residents who must not be made to feel like a fish out of the water.

Government must consider schemes that encourage private investors to include a percentage of affordable housing units within their largescale projects that could be offered to existing Valletta residents or those who want to return to the capital but cannot afford current market prices. In this way, the social character of the city is not lost.

At the same time, the development process must also include social and educational investment that helps families with problems that transcend financial issues.

It is encouraging that Valletta is getting the attention it deserves from private investors and the government. The capital today is unrecognisable from what it was up to a decade ago when it served as a shopping hub during the day with no life in the evening.

The private and public investment is helping transform the city in a positive way and this momentum must not be lost, while attention is given to locals and the cultural traditions that make up the complex Valletta tapestry.

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