NEWS | Sunday, 22 July 2007

Two floors over Knights’ Barracks proposed for Dock 1

James Debono

Plans presented to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority for the proposed Dock No. 1 project will include the development of two additional floors over the existing Knights’ Barracks and a six-storey landmark building.
The news has attracted concern from heritage trust Din l-Art Helwa, whose president Martin Galea expressed worry over the impact the two “very large modern structures” will have: “We must assess the impact landmark buildings will have on the view from the bastions.”
The six-storey building will include five floors of apartments, adjacent to the knights’ barracks. Also included is an imposing five storey-high gateway block, planned for Gavino Gulia square, in Cospicua.
Galea is however not against the two additional storeys on the knights’ barracks and appreciates that the new plans represent an improvement on the scale of development envisaged in the development brief.
“We recognise that the developers have tried to work with some interesting architecture and not to overdevelop existing buildings,” Galea said, who added that Din l-Art Helwa appreciates the need for private investment in the area. “We understand that in order to attract investment in the regeneration of this area, private investment, which leaves a return, is invaluable.”
Since the application is still in its outline phase, Din l-Art Helwa said it sees room for improvements that will ensure the development respects its august surroundings. “We are not against the use of stylish modern architecture but this must sit well in the original surroundings.”
The project development statement presented by Gruppo Romegas states that a small number of new properties, of a more contemporary nature, will be constructed to complement existing buildings. Their aim is to restore some of the urban fabric lost over the last century and reintroduce quality residential accommodation to the area.
The proposal retains the façade of the first floor level of the knights’ barracks due to its historical importance. It has long been known locally as “the sail makers’ loft”.
In December 2006 the developers proposed to add two additional floors to the historical building, set back from the historical façade above the resulting block “as a means of creating a living façade to St. Paul’s Street from the rear, which is two storeys above the quay in front.”
In current proposals, the development above the barracks has been split. An internal pedestrian street has been introduced, between the blocks connecting a new open space at the south end of the Barracks building to the open spaces below Senglea Gate.
According to the latest plans, the ground floor of the barracks will be used for retail and commercial purposes. The first, second and third floor will be used to accommodate residential units. The developers are confident the new development will serve as a catalyst for the regeneration of the whole Cottonera area.
“The historical properties within the boundaries of the development, until recently occupied by the Malta Dockyards operations, will be restored and refurbished as a historical record of the area and its vivid social, cultural and economic past.”
They claim the dock and quays will no longer be concealed behind imposingly high walls, but will be fully accessible to the residents of Cottonera and all visitors, as befits a healthy, harbour front town.
This proposal aims at re-establishing the waterfront between Vittoriosa and Cospicua. It therefore necessarily envisages part of this open area as a pedestrianised green space, allowing for recreational activities and a shaded walk, attractive all year-round, between these two cities.

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