By Ivan Piccinino, Head of Projects, MIDI
MIDI’s masterplan for Manoel Island makes a series of key improvements when compared to previous designs. Our latest masterplan focuses on preservation, sustainability and public wellbeing, while transforming Manoel Island into a space prepared for Malta’s future.
Right from the start our objective was to create a vibrant project that blends history, large open spaces, a mixed array of residential, retail and mixed-use developments. Together with iAS Periti, the firm who led the design process, we wanted to promote sustainable habits and profound respect to the environment, while at the same time create a pedestrian friendly environment which is unique and not just an extension of the mainland.
The new masterplan for Manoel Island aims to retain the aspects of the mixed-use development and will be enhancing this by placing a stronger emphasis on creating more open and larger public spaces, reducing the previously contemplated footprint of new development to approximately 10%, providing a better mix in the commercial areas and better integration of the existing heritage buildings through the public spaces. A key objective is the creation of a well-connected, pedestrian-friendly and safe environment which is accessible to all. A place with a genuine sense of community and belonging while deeply rooted on the Maltese culture.
The masterplan also seeks to combine better accessibility to the heritage sites with a diversified commercial, cultural and sustainable offer. It is envisaged that this synergy will strengthen the attraction of the island to both potential visitors and residents.
Restoration of Heritage Buildings
The existing heritage buildings are central to the design philosophy of the new masterplan. The new masterplan provides a new lease of life to the heritage buildings present on Manoel Island, including Fort Manoel, which has already been restored. The Customs House, St. George’s Chapel and the Cattle Shed will occupy prominent positions within the new 35,000sqm open space which extends from the bridge to the Lazzaretto quay. These buildings will be restored to provide an animated commercial offering which compliments the surrounding open spaces. Additionally, the Lazzaretto will be restored and adapted as a mixed-use development including hospitality accommodation.
Public Open Spaces and Accessibility
One of the key drivers for this masterplan, is the extent of the new public open space. The aspiration of this development is to create several new open spaces in prominent places within the development which, while integrating better the heritage buildings, create open spaces of recreation for the public’s enjoyment. The archaeological sites uncovered during recent investigations has helped to create an additional 35,000sqm of public open space, which will be integrated into the development. Part of the 35,000sqm of new public open space will become a public garden which will be landscaped with indigenous trees, while the rest of the area will consist of public plazas with a limited commercial offering.
The quantity and quality of the public spaces are fundamental objectives of our new design, with a harmonious balance between public and private realm. In the new masterplan, a great proportion of the land will remain accessible to the public and there will be improved accessibility to buildings of cultural heritage and the foreshore. Furthermore, accessibility via sea will complement this objective with the introduction of strategically placed water taxi landing points. The creation of an attractive pedestrian streetscape and environment with a reduced dependency on vehicles is also a key objective making the island a pedestrian priority area.
Gzira FC pitch and Bocci Club
In line with its contractual obligations, MIDI will be developing a new full size football pitch for Gzira FC and facilities for the Gzira Bocci Club.
The existing marina concession will be upgraded, and the capacity of the marina will be increased to approximately 190 berths. Apart from pontoons the marina will include a quay for larger berths which will be offered stern to berths. The marina will be protected by a floating breakwater which in the new masterplan replaces the fixed breakwater which was originally contemplated. By providing a floating breakwater the impact on the environment is largely mitigated and the location of the breakwater ensures that the dive wreck site remains protected.
Most of the residences will be located on the south shore and the central part of the island, separated in between by the large public open landscaped space. The residential buildings are also positioned on parts of the island where studies show that they will not impede on archaeologically sensitive areas. The building heights will be slightly terraced from the seafront towards the centre of the island to create a varied architectural skyline which respects the islands topography. The maximum height of the development will not exceed the height of the buildings in Fort Manoel.
No land reclamation
In a move away from the original plan that included 14,000sqm in land reclamation, the revised masterplan does not include the land reclamation originally contemplated as part of the development. As a result, the residential block which was proposed for the north shore entrance to Manoel Island will not be developed, thus reducing the impact on the Gzira community.
In a first for Malta, the Manoel Island development is subject to a Guardianship Agreement. The Manoel Island Foundation – a non-profit foundation set up between MIDI plc and Gzira Local Council – will act as guardian of the rights and obligations agreed in the masterplan.
This agreement safeguards public interest by ensuring access to the foreshore, protecting heritage buildings, regulating new building heights and providing public open spaces and cultural offerings – ensuring that the new MIDI Masterplan for Manoel Island is an investment in Gzira and Malta’s past, present and future.