MediaToday Victor Axiak
NEWS | Sunday, 05 August 2007

Gzira to switch off the red light

Testaferrata Street has long been stigmatised for various reasons. With its prostitutes and run-down buildings, apart from the general neglect of the area, it has surely been crying out for re-generation. And that appears to be on the cards, with a massive new project has finally been approved for site of the former Mira Buildings.

Metropolis – Facts

1. Site Footprint:  Circa 7,000sqmt

2. Piazza available to the public:  Circa 1,700sqmt

3. Residential: Circa 33,000sqmt including a mix of One, Two Bedrooms & Three Bedrooms plus double height duplex apartments and sky Villas (large apartments circa 400 sqmts with 180 degree views)

4. Parking: Circa 504 spaces and lock up garages

5. Retail: Circa 3,500sqmt

6. Office space: Circa 4,500sqmt open plan office space



1. Surrounded by four streets comprising an entire street block;

2. South Tower 13 floors; East Tower 27 floors and North Tower 33 floors;

3. Residents will be able to make use of a secure garden level with indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and spa;

4. Residents and guest will have access to a secure Residential lobby;

5. Developers have recognised the need to bring together a team of both local knowledge (EM architects) and foreign expertise on high rise buildings (GMW architects UK);

6. Developers has sought to recruit a professional project management team from the UK to monitor the construction of the development – (Capita Symonds);

7. Mechanical and electrical consultants are a local company MTS limited

8. Developers are currently in discussion with a well-established and renowned Italian Interior design firm to assist in the interior design of the apartments and residential areas.

9. Total regeneration of the area together with other projects owned by an associated company in the area.

10. Every single apartment will have a view.

11. Views will cover - Sliema Creek, Manoel Island and Ta’Xbiex yacht marina, Valletta bastions and on the upper levels even the Msida marina and Grand harbour.

12. Developers are confident that given the regeneration process and their vision for the area, the location will prove to be the most important aspect to the development.

David Aquilina, sales director for the Metropolis development, is certainly an affable person. As we sit in his stunning office in the Portomaso Business Tower admiring the view of the Dragonara Casino, David assures me that the view from Metropolis’ three “M towers” – at 33, 28 and 12 storeys respectively – is going to be out of this world.

But how did the investors in the project decide to take up such a large and admittedly daunting undertaking?

“Some three years ago, we came across the property and started to negotiate the purchase,” he explains. “Once the deal was struck with the former owners, we began making plans for a high-rise building. The original owners had plans for a 40-storey pencil tower building, but we decided that this did not fit in with our concept for the site. We believed in the location of the building and due to the commercial interest in the area, and felt that no one was taking advantage of the prospects of such a development. Consequently, we revisited the plans and brought in local and foreign design consultants. Together we were able to bring in the local expertise and foreign experience on high-rise buildings.”

Metropolis is designed as a lifestyle building with all amenities available at one’s fingertips. Every single apartment will have a view as well as large terraces. David explains that after many discussions with MEPA, an outline development permit was finally issued around five or six weeks ago.

“We feel that the area is central and a perfect location, and with rapid development currently going on in Gzira and the Strand seafront, this place will definitely become as desirable as Sliema, only with much less parking problems. Add the location to the incredible views that one can get from the apartments, and you really have something special.”

David explains that the project is primarily intended to regenerate the area, which has been run-down for far too long.

“One of the shareholders has purchased a very large percentage of properties in the lower end of Testaferrata Street and the buildings will be demolished to make way for an attractive mix of business properties, offices and residential units. The top part of Testaferrata Street is currently being developed by the Mizzi Group so in a few months, the whole area is going to change. The slogan we are using is ‘from red to green’ and ‘It’s happening now’ to emphasise the change that will be made in the transformation of the area.”

David insists that the company believes in the potential of the area and is committed to its regeneration. He describes the nitty-gritty of the project with some passion, which is understandable given his firm belief in it all.

“We will also be developing a 1,700 square metre open air piazza which should be the centre of activity of the area. There will be a retail area of around 2,200 square metres in addition to 4,300 square metres of offices. In addition to creating what one may call an ancillary area or garden level between the offices and the high-rise area. This will include a swimming pool, a gym and a spa, which will be for the exclusive use of residents and members.”

The development designs show a mix of one-, two- and three- bedroom apartments, all accessible through a central lobby.

“However, we have taken this concept a step further through ongoing discussions with an Italian design company for the whole interior design of the building. In our opinion, the building will be unique, and is aimed at a wider market than usual, ranging from the young to the elderly.”

An interesting concept to be used in this development is the option to buy in open plan layouts, also including duplex, double height apartments. However, the gems of Metropolis are likely to be the higher floors, where the sky villas of over 400 square metres are located. All apartments however will be fitted with large glazed windows so every single apartment will be able to enjoy the stunning views of Manoel island and the Valletta fortifications, all of which are part of the lifestyle planned for Metropolis.

The next step for the project is the moving of sales and design lounge to Testaferrata Street, to a corner showroom opposite the development, where the project will then begin in full swing.

“Before the end of the year we hope to start launching these properties on the market. It has taken quite a long time to get to outline permit stage but in the intervening three years, the scope of the location has appreciated immensely. We are very confident that the public will appreciate what we are doing and although there is indeed a lot of competition around, at the end of the day we have what is one of the best locations on the island for development.”


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