Smart City Malta is reviewing its marketing strategy in view of the developments that have taken place since it was first launched.

Recently appointed CEO Anthony Tabone said the pricing for office space had to reflect not only changes in the economic scenario over the crisis of the past few years, but also the new, prestigious developments competing for office space.

The appointment of a Maltese CEO marks a fundamental shift towards more autonomy from Dubai when it comes to taking such crucial decisions.

Mr Tabone’s credentials place him in the ideal position to fulfil this role. He spent 12 years in Dubai representing Malta Enterprise and has been honorary consul since 2003.

However, changing the shareholder’s approach is only part of his battle. He also has to change the perception in Malta. If little things can be an indicator of larger, more serious ones, then perhaps one little tale is worth recounting: there are only two road signs pointing to Smart City Malta.

Although the first tower is around 40 per cent occupied, according to Mr Tabone, this massive project has still not quite gotten “off the ground” – possibly because expectations were raised unreasonably high prior to the 2008 election.

The reality is that the project is moving along at a steady pace, with workers swarming over both the new blocks and the lagoon. He has been promised more road signs and is looking into improving public transport to the area in anticipation of future demand.

The first tower has already been given a constant flow of people thanks to the 1,300 square metres taken up by Global College for its courses, while Cisco and HP also have an office presence there. The meeting rooms are also used “on a daily basis” by various corporates. But there is still a lot of space to be filled: 25,000 square metres in all.

Mr Tabone has thrown his energy into generating tenants, focussing on ICT, financial services, educational and gaming companies. He said the response – especially in the light of the new marketing policy – has been very positive.

Smart City have made a direct capital investment of €76 million in Smart City Malta, confirming its strong commitment to the Malta project

The second and third office towers have now taken shape and the first tenants are expected to move in to them within the coming weeks.

The stunning views from the offices are an obvious plus, but the real advantage of Smart City Malta is that it offers a comprehensive infrastructure, ranging from underground cabling to the solar panels lighting the car park.

“We have a five-star building with 1GB of bandwidth, environmental certification, full back-up generating capacity – including a substation in due course, a concierge service, service lifts, shared toilets and pantry areas, and more. We offer a plug-and-play solution,” he added.

It is not only the office space that is taking shape, however. An intrinsic part of Smart City Malta was always that it was going to be more than just office and residential space. In fact, €30 million is committed to public areas, out of the €92 million which must be invested by the shareholders. To date, Smart City have made a direct capital investment of €76 million in Smart City Malta, confirming its strong commitment to the Malta project.

The Government has granted the temporary emphy­teusis by title for 99 years.

“Smart City Malta is a destination in its own right – which is why the lagoon and surrounding retail space is fundamental,” Mr Tabone said. The lagoon is being filled in the coming days, and the ‘dancing’ fountains are set to become a unique feature for locals and tourists alike.

“The shoreline will also be linked to the Xagħjra promenade in time for next summer. The idea is that this will keep the 360,000-square-metre area alive after hours – with entertainment planned.

“We will have 15 food and beverage and retail outlets, and we are also planning a gym and child care centre, so this is going to be a very holistic solution for employees as well as for the community,” he said.

Will Smart City live up to the original hype? Mr Tabone is, let us say, prudently optimistic.

“We are at an advanced level of discussions with the shareholders about the next phases (which include the residential elements) but there is no timeframe as yet.

“The intention is to complete it as per the master plan. My appointment is a sign of Tecom’s determination to see this through to completion,” he said.

vanessa.macdonald@timesofmalta.com

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