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40% of the project once billed as futuristic ‘internet city’ will be residential, while the rest will be a hospital, schools and hotels. Only 9% will be offices.

Initially touted by the Gonzi administration as a digital hub that would employ 4,000 workers, Smart City is fast changing into a residential and commercial project.

Office space, once meant to attract the big names of the digital world, is now limited to only 9% of the project’s floor space in the newly proposed masterplan.

What was originally conceived as a Dubai-style plug-and-play internet city will now house 1,000 residential units, a hospital, the relocated ITS campus as well as the American University of Malta, and a new private school.

These changes are being certified in a new masterplan that plots anything between 953 and 1,060 residential units and changes the ratio of the three components of the project.

The original 2009 masterplan was to have 51% of total floor area for office space, while limiting residential areas to 20% and commercial development to 29%

The latest masterplan limits office space to just 9%, reducing this gross floor area by 125,000sq.m, while residences grow to 40%, and commercial space to 51%, reversing the original plans for the area.

The data emerges from the report compiled by ADI, a consultancy firm, which was submitted to the Environment and Resources Authority. The authority had enquired whether any project changes would affect the findings and conclusions of the environmental impact assessment for the original 2009 masterplan.

The number of apartments quoted in the statement includes the already approved 365 apartments in the adjacent Shoreline building that was built on land hived off from Smart City. It also includes the 69 villas near Fort St Rocco set to be approved by Planning Authority board on 23 May.

No additional visual impact expected

Overall, the project represents an 18% increase in total floorspace to 368,000sq.m, but no increase in negative visual impact or traffic is expected. With the removal of residential development from 38,000sq.m of agricultural land around St Peter’s Battery as foreseen in the 2009 plans, this is expected to have a “positive impact” on closer views of the project from the fort.

Photomontages also indicate a lesser impact on both short-distance views as well as those from Valletta and Cottonera. Data from ADI predicts daily traffic of 17,000 car trips, down from the 18,247 foreseen in the original masterplan.

The only negative environmental impact of the project anticipated by the EIA coordinators is the increase of 132% in excavation waste, which includes excavation already undertaken in the past decade.

New school and hospital

The commercial component of project, set to take 51% of total floor area, will include a school for approximately 650 primary and secondary-level students, apart from the relocated Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) campus for 2,500 students, and the American University of Malta (AUM) Campus, expected to cater for 4,000 students and 320 staff members.

The report however says AUM’s population is based on “media reports” for both the Bormla and Smart City campuses and that “there is no indication of how many will be accommodated in the Smart City campus”.

The “worst-case” scenario of 4,000 is assumed to ensure that traffic projections are correct. Both campuses will include dormitories, food and beverage and retail outlets, offices, sports facilities, childcare facilities, and a hotel.

The masterplan also foresees the development of a 200-bed private hospital with a floor area of 23,500sq.m.

Project already exceeding 2009 limit

According to the PA’s case officer report recommending the approval of the Fort St Rocco villas, the Shoreline apartment complex and mall have already utilised 41,000sq.m of the residential component.

That leaves just 21,730sq.m that can be used at Smart City for residential development. With the villa’s approval at 24,400sq.m, the residential component will already be in excess of the 2009 masterplan limits which had only envisaged 334 units over 63,000sq.m.

The new masterplan increases residential areas by 85,000sq.m to reach 148,000sq.m or 40% of the project’s total floor area.

Saturation in office demand

Following the presentation of a planning application for the new masterplan last year, a spokesperson for the company had told MaltaToday that the changes reflect “local and global market considerations”, replacing the emphasis on the delivery of office space that was central to the 2009 masterplan, with an increased focus “on education and training facilities”.

The change reflects “the significant saturation of local office development” and “the post-pandemic changes to workplace outlook”, as well as an increased demand for space for “less speculative educational land uses”.

“This current application presents a mixed‐use scheme with a broad focus on quality of life, working, living and learning environments addressing a broad demographic providing a robust framework for an adaptable urban environment that can respond to future changes,” the spokesperson had said.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): James Debono

Quelle/Source: Malta Today, 29.04.2024

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