Pro­posed Saqqa­jja ho­tel will not af­fect views of Md­ina, pro­po­nents say

● Project would also open new pub­lic ac­cess to medieval city

Malta Independent - - Front Page - ■ Neil Camil­leri

The pro­po­nents of a lux­ury, 110-bed ho­tel at Saqqa­jja Hill say the de­vel­op­ment would not af­fect views of the Silent City and, on the con­trary could help Md­ina’s bid to be des­ig­nated as a UN­ESCO World Her­itage Site.

In a pre­sen­ta­tion to The Malta In­de­pen­dent, ar­chi­tect David Xuereb, CEO of QP Man­age­ment, said that safe­guard­ing of the old city is ac­tu­ally in the best in­ter­est of the project.

“The de­vel­op­ers could have opted for a res­i­den­tial project, which would have gen­er­ated a higher re­turn on in­vest­ment, but the idea of the project is that of qual­ity tourism that would ac­tu­ally help Md­ina’s UN­ESCO bid,” Xuereb said, adding that the area lacked qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion.

He also said that the 5-star ho­tel project will re­duce traf­fic trav­el­ling up Saqqa­jja Hill and will open up a new pub­lic ac­cess point to the medieval city.

The pro­posed site en­com­passes the Tat­tingers night­club and two other build­ings.

He ex­plained that the ho­tel’s height will not ex­ceed the ex­ist­ing pre­dom­i­nant streetscape. While ho­tels are usu­ally al­lowed ex­tra floors, the de­vel­op­ers in this case were aware of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the site and made sure not to al­ter the vi­su­als of the area.

The pro­posed build­ing foot­print would take up a small area of ODZ land at the back but the de­vel­op­ers point out that, from the front, the new build­ing will be re­ceded and set back to widen the ex­ist­ing road.

Perit Xuereb ex­plained that, when look­ing at Md­ina from the fields below, it looks as if the old city is ‘float­ing.’ This ef­fect is due to a band of green­ery below the city. The pro­posed ho­tel will not al­ter this ef­fect, he said.

The ho­tel per se will be built with full re­spect to­wards the sur­round­ing area, in­cor­po­rat­ing tra­di­tional fea­tures such as wrought iron and the tra­di­tional Mal­tese bal­cony, as well as green build­ing con­cepts, such as green walls.

The de­vel­op­ers want the build­ing to be LEED (Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign) cer­ti­fied, is an in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized green build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, Xuereb ex­plained.

Rather than go­ing for the tra­di­tional sin­gu­lar ho­tel build­ing, the ar­chi­tects have de­signed the façade to give the im­pres­sion that one is ac­tu­ally look­ing at a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ad­ja­cent build­ings.

There will be no ex­ca­va­tion, Xuereb said, since the ho­tel will not have a base­ment or un­der­ground car park. How­ever, the ap­pli­cants are try­ing to es­tab­lish, my means of clean­ing, what lies be­neath the build­ings. The process is be­ing car­ried out in con­junc­tion with the Su­per­in­ten­dence for Cul­tural Her­itage.

The old rail­way tun­nel lies un­der some 20 me­tre of rock and will not be af­fected, Xuereb said.

The ho­tel’s out­door area would be de­vel­oped over some agri­cul­tural fields that form part of the same par­cel of land owned by the ap­pli­cant.

Asked about the traf­fic im­pact, Xuereb ex­plained that the project is en­vis­aged to re­duce traf­fic go­ing up Saqqa­jja hill. “Since this will be a lux­ury ho­tel we en­vis­age that most guests would make use of taxis or other forms of chauf­feured trans­port. The ho­tel will have a lay-by area, within its bound­ary, where guests can be picked up and dropped off with­out dis­turb­ing traf­fic flow on the main road. The lay-by will also be used for goods de­liv­er­ies,” Xuereb ex­plained.

The de­vel­op­ers are also propos­ing that the gov­ern­ment ren­o­vates and man­ages the pub­lic car park just across the road. While the car park would re­main pub­lic, the de­vel­op­ers are propos­ing open­ing up an ac­cess pas­sage that runs through the prop­erty and leads up to the Md­ina ditch. This would be open to the pub­lic, thus cre­at­ing a new pub­lic ac­cess point to the city. This would also serve to re­duce the num­ber of ve­hi­cles go­ing up Saqqa­jja.

The de­vel­op­ers are also en­cour­ag­ing the gov­ern­ment to re­store the bas­tions that lie be­hind the site which, for some rea­son, were left out of past restora­tion projects.

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