At the heart of Malta’s densely urban area sits Manoel Island, an iconic landmark steeped in heritage. A new master plan by MIDI seeks to respect this history, restoring the island into a unique destination offset by large and carefully placed public open spaces. Residential, retail and mixed-use development completes this vibrant project, which will create a venue that visitors and residents can enjoy.

Making a series of key improvements to the original 1999 and 2017 designs, the revised MIDI master plan focuses on preservation, sustainability and public well-being. The total development footprint of the new buildings has been reduced from 26 per cent to circa 10 per cent and the gross floor area to be developed now totals 55,000sqm compared to the 95,000sqm set out in the government deed.

More accessible than ever before

As well as improved pedestrian access to the foreshore, the public will be able to explore 175,000sqm of open spaces, with green areas including the sprawling Glacis Park, measuring 80,000sqm, around the iconic Fort Manoel.

A new 35,000sqm open space, which includes an indigenous garden at the entrance of Manoel Island, will welcome visitors as they escape the hubbub of busy Gżira and beyond. In fact, open spaces will now total more than half the size of the Ta’ Qali National Park and the revised master plan contemplates a pedestrian-priority development with vehicles directed underground to ensure a safe environment for the public to enjoy.

The extraordinary heritage sites found on Manoel Island have shaped the dynamic redesign. At the island’s heart is its oldest building, the iconic Cattle Shed or Bovile, which historically quarantined livestock. While much of the fabric of the original isolation pens and walls has been lost to time, and nothing remains of the dedicated walled route that connected the building to the docks and waterfront, the revised master plan seeks to restore both to their former glory. The unique Cattle Shed is to be sensitively reconstructed and its neighbouring Bovile route reinstated, to create a haven where people can dine, meet friends and unwind.

St Anthony's chapel before and after the restoration works.St Anthony's chapel before and after the restoration works.

Conservation, adaptive use of heritage

The careful integration, conservation and adaptive use of Manoel Island’s heritage assets is central to the design philosophy of the new MIDI master plan. It restores the famed Lazzaretto for mixed use and hospitality purposes, while significant works on the magnificent Fort Manoel will continue its transformation into a cultural and arts hub with full public access, ensuring a fitting future for this important fort. The integration of a network of safe and attractive streets around the island’s landscape will also promote a relaxed walking experience, with shading and ventilation throughout the year to complement the local climate.

Archaeological remains

The residential units are located in two specific areas to ensure that the heritage value of the archaeological remains and historical buildings are preserved. The height of these buildings will be terraced from the seafront towards the centre of the island to create a varied architectural skyline which respects the island’s topography. The maximum height of the development will not exceed the height of Fort Manoel.

The extraordinary heritage sites found on Manoel Island have shaped the dynamic redesign

Sports facilities

While the revised master plan ensures that the public has full access to Manoel Island and the surrounding foreshore all year round, it also includes sports facilities for the benefit of the Gżira community. These will include a full-sized football pitch for use by Gżira United Football Club, a Boċċi Club, and a variety of additional sports and leisure amenities.

Furthermore, the existing slipway will be upgraded for the benefit of the local fishing and boating community as well as water sports enthusiasts. 

Sustainability

Sustainability remains a cornerstone of the revised MIDI Master plan for Manoel Island. In a move from the original plan that contemplated 14,000sqm in land reclamation, the revised master plan does not include any land reclamation, reducing the impact on both the Gżira community and the marine environment. The island’s sustainability strategy also includes extensive water conservation resources, such as rainwater harvesting and the collection and treatment of grey water for irrigation.

The new buildings proposed in the master plan will be designed to conserve energy through the best use of daylight and efficient materials.

Manoel Island’s carbon footprint will be further reduced through the creation of a largely pedestrianised car-free landscape and infrastructure that prioritises public transport, such as water ferries connecting the island to Valletta.

A floating breakwater instead of the originally planned solid structure will likewise mitigate its environmental impact, while still enabling Manoel Island to operate as a world-class yacht marina.

Safeguarding public interests

To ensure that the public interest is safeguarded, the Gżira local council and MIDI have established the Manoel Island Foundation with the specified purpose of acting as guardian on matters of public interest, including access to the foreshore, the protection of the heritage buildings and the provision of public open spaces.

As a responsible developer, MIDI will continue to work closely and transparently with all stakeholders by listening, engaging and providing updates throughout the project, thereby ensuring the delivery of significant benefits to the community for the long term.

Following decades of neglect, Manoel Island is now set to offer a tranquil escape from the busy urban lifestyle found today in the locality.

At last, this important piece of local culture can be reinstated, so that future generations may experience Manoel Island as a unique destination that merges heritage, residences and open spaces, set against the stunning backdrop of Valletta.

More information about the new MIDI Manoel Island master plan can be found at www.manoelisland.com.mt.

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