The newly revised MIDI masterplan for the restoration and development of Manoel Island will respect this iconic landmark’s rich heritage, while readying it to be enjoyed by everyone in the local and national community.
While Manoel Island is a critical part of Malta’s history, it remains a much-loved part of the local landscape and culture.
Preserving this unique heritage is at the heart of the revised MIDI masterplan to restore and develop Manoel Island – a plan that was recently submitted to the Planning Authority alongside a revised Environmental Impact Assessment to the Environmental Resources Authority.
The 2021 masterplan makes a series of key improvements when compared to the 1999 and 2017 designs, focusing on preservation, sustainability and public wellbeing while transforming Manoel Island into a space prepared for Malta’s future.
New public open spaces
While the original deed of emphyteusis with the Government called for 161,000sqm of open spaces on Manoel Island, these now total 192,000sqm on the new masterplan. Of this, 175,000sqm is public open space – equivalent to an incredible 22 football pitches.
Each space has been carefully located to respect and showcase Manoel Island’s heritage and archaeological sites. As well as the Glacis Park, an 80,000sqm green family park surrounding Fort Manoel, there is another 35,000sqm open space in the heart of the development.
Manoel Island’s 192,000sqm total open space is vast in comparison to Malta’s other public open spaces. It is approximately nine times larger than neighbouring Gzira Gardens, around four times the size of San Anton Gardens, over five times larger than the Sant' Antnin Family Park and more than half the size of the Ta’ Qali National Park.
Heritage buildings restored
The restoration of Manoel Island’s many heritage buildings and the historical part of the existing bridge is key to the masterplan.
The Lazzaretto will be restored for mixed use and hospitality purposes, while the magnificent Fort Manoel – which has already undergone significant works to restore it to its former glory – will become a cultural and arts hub, with galleries, museums, shops, restaurants and a parade ground, all with full public access. The Chapel will also host community events, weddings and celebrations.
Reduced footprint for new buildings
The footprint of both residential and commercial new buildings on Manoel Island has been radically reduced from 26 per cent in the 1999 masterplan to around 10 per cent now. This results in a gross floor area totalling 55,000sqm, which is significantly less than the approximate 95,000sqm originally contemplated.
Archaeological sites central to the redesign
Over 24 months of site investigation carried out by an independent archaeologist and approved by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage confirmed that a large part of the site is of archaeological importance.
In fact, the discovery of these sites – which affect an area of 22,000sqm – prompted the full redesign of the masterplan to ensure that they are respected and maintained. The affected area will now be transformed into a 35,000sqm public space.
No land reclamation
In a move away from the original plan that included 14,000sqm in land reclamation, the revised masterplan does not include the land reclamation contemplated in the Deed. As a result the residential block which was proposed for the north shore entrance to Manoel Island will not be developed, thus reducing the impact on the Gzira community.
No solid breakwater
While ensuring Manoel Island can still be operated as a world-class yacht marina, the new masterplan continues to mitigate its environmental impact by shifting from a solid to a floating breakwater.
The current slipway on the north side of the Island will be retained and upgraded.
As an essential feature for the local fishing and boating community, the enhanced slipway will continue to operate as a launch pad for vessels including fishing boats, sailing boats and kayaks.
The revised Manoel Island masterplan insists that full public access is maintained all year round. Pedestrians can continue to enjoy unhindered access to the foreshore for swimming, walking or meeting friends and family.
The masterplan also boasts a variety of sports facilities for the benefit of the Gzira community, including a full-sized football pitch for Gzira United FC and a Bocci Club.
Sustainability is central to MIDI’s Manoel Island masterplan, with the project designed to meet Malta’s renewable energy targets.
Water conservation is a key factor too, with rainwater harvesting, collection and treatment of grey water for irrigation and utilisation of the Island’s existing reservoirs.
The new buildings have likewise been designed to conserve energy, considering the best use of daylight while installing glazing and shading devices alongside energy efficient lighting, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
To reduce Manoel Island’s carbon footprint further and create a largely pedestrianised car-free streetscape, vehicular access will be limited. On top of this, car parking will be located underground and supplemented by electric charging points.
Infrastructure will be developed for water ferries connecting Manoel Island to Valletta and Sliema.
In a first for Malta, the masterplan is subject to a Guardianship Agreement. The Manoel Island Foundation – a non-profit foundation set up between MIDI plc and Gzira Local Council – will act as guardian of the rights and obligations agreed in the masterplan.
This Agreement safeguards public interest by respecting access to the foreshore, protecting heritage buildings, regulating new building heights and providing public open spaces and cultural offerings – ensuring that the new MIDI masterplan for Manoel Island is an investment in Gzira and Malta’s past, present and future.
More information about the new MIDI Manoel Island masterplan can be found at www.manoelisland.com.mt.
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