Now that the public is getting all the facts about our proposed City Centre project in St George’s Bay, St Julian’s, nine individuals prefer to keep the truth hidden (Times of Malta, June 8).
Because the facts reaching the public are undeniable, they accuse us of “bullying”. Because the myths about our project are all tumbling down under the force of truth, we are called “arrogant”. Because reason is winning, the only pathetic option these people have left is to call the truth “irrelevant”.
As always, we shall not engage in hysterics. We shall continue informing the public with the facts and retain an open dialogue with whoever wishes to make a balanced judgement. So here goes.
These individuals claim that we did not listen about the height of the tower. We did and we acted. It has been reduced by seven floors (31 metres).
It is now approximately the same height as Mercury Tower, Fort Cambridge, Metropolis and Town Square.
In addition, the hotel has been reduced by 24 rooms and the whole project’s developable area has been reduced by 50,000sqm. This is not “bullying”. It’s the truth.
Then they claim that the project is “unsustainable”. For starters, we are the only ones taking all the risk here and we are doing so as we head towards the uncertainties of the post COVID-19 era.
Yet we are full of courage and optimism. Why? Because we believe in this country. Just as we invested €90 million in two hotels during the 2008 financial crisis, we are prepared to risk another €250 million on the City Centre project.
From our risk the country will benefit handsomely.
Economists project that in the first 10 years of operations, the government’s return on our project will amount to almost half a billion euros, shooting up to €800 million with the multiplier effect. Once the project is in operation, it will also create 1,200 new jobs. Irrelevant? I don’t think so.
Sinking to deeper levels of absurdity, these individuals claim that we “refused to listen to the impartial and highly respected Auditor General”. Unbelievable.
We had publicly welcomed the Auditor General’s report when it was originally put in motion and embraced its judgement on our group when it handed down its verdict. Not only did it conclude that we paid a fair price for the land but it found absolutely nothing wrong with the way we acted as a group.
These individuals claim that the project somehow violates urban planning stipulations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We have abided by every clause in the local plan both in terms of the developable land as well as the permitted heights.
Indeed, we are building much less than we are entitled to on both counts. Again, these are verifiable facts, not “irrelevant” statements.
We are full of courage and optimism. Why? Because we believe in this country- Arthur Gauci
In criticising the project, these individuals did not even bother to check basic facts.
We have already paid €1.5 million in planning gain for the benefit of Pembroke and its residents. Public authorities could decide, for instance, to install state -of-the-art, removable, eco-friendly decking for the public. From this perfectly sensible suggestion, these individuals bizarrely conclude that we are paving the way for acquiring a beach concession on a Natura 2000 site. Read our lips: we are not interested in any beach concession on this site.
Finally, these individuals’ tunnel vision reaches its full glory on the proposed tunnel. For them, it amounts to “using public money for private interests”. Not quite.
The truth is that a new tunnel will serve everyone’s needs – Pembroke residents, Coast Road users, all the businesses and residents in the area and the public.
It is enough to say that the tunnel will enable all the traffic leaving St George’s Bay to avoid Pemroke completely. The truth is that a tunnel was a necessity yesterday and imperative today, let alone tomorrow.
We listened and we acted. You?
Arthur Gauci is CEO, db Group.
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