A 475 square-metre parcel of land on the boundary between Gżira and Sliema was sold by auction for €9 million on Tuesday, more than tripling its initial valuation.

The land was bought by Carmel Buttigieg, who forced the auction by refusing to sell his original share in the land to construction magnate Michael Stivala.

Stivala, who wanted the land to develop an 11-storey hotel on it, had secured a deal with 71 out of 72 shareholders but was unable to strike a deal with Buttigieg.

The issue went to court, which ordered that the land be auctioned off.

On Tuesday, Buttigieg again frustrated Stivala’s plans, in a three-way bidding war that saw land valued at €2.76 million sold for triple that valuation.

Bidding for the land started at €1.65 million and quickly rose as Stivala, Buttigieg and Joseph Vella raced to outbid one another. Ultimately, Buttigieg secured the property when he trumped an €8.8 million offer with a €9 million one.

The bid means Buttigieg will pay just shy of €19,000 per square metre for the land that forms part of three premises in Triq Parisio and Triq Moroni and which abuts the gardens of the scheduled Villa Bonici.

It also draws the curtain on a protracted battle over the site that goes back years.

Stivala had presented plans to demolish the site under auction as well as an adjacent portion of land, excavate it and develop a hotel and restaurant there.

The Planning Authority granted the magnate a permit to do so – but objectors appealed, noting that he did not own the entire site in question. The matter ended in court, which ordered the auction and also instructed Stivala to fork out €100,000 for legal fees.

Although Stivala lost Tuesday’s auction he has also not abandoned his plans for the area.

“We have yet to discuss new plans [for the site],” he said when contacted by Times of Malta following the auction.

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