Tuesday, July 21, 2015

‘4,000 extra cars won’t aggravate traffic problems’, Townsquare developers claim

3rd August Deadline for Objections re. 38 storey highrise in Sliema - go to bottom of this blogpost for further details.

Environment Impact Studies commissioned by the developers of the Townsquare project in Tigné, Sliema estimate that the project will increase daily traffic peak flows in the Qui-Si-Sana area from the present 24,444 to 28,874 vehicles.

JAMES DEBONO quizzes developer Michael Soler and architect Martin Xuereb on the 38-storey tower proposed in the heart of Sliema


Malta Today, 21 July 2015

Environment Impact Studies commissioned by the developers of the Townsquare project in Tigné, Sliema estimate that the project will increase daily traffic peak flows in the Qui-Si-Sana area from the present 24,444 to 28,874 vehicles.

Yet the developers of the ambitious 38-storey tower – just metres away from a 40-storey tower hotel being proposed by Gap Developments – insist that an additional 4,430 vehicles will not aggravate problems because the project will also include a car park catering for 800 cars.

So will not the car park itself, coupled with the new retail areas, attract even more cars to the area? For developer Michael Soler, a director of the Gasan Group, the creation of more car park spaces means that cars will not have to move around Sliema until they find where to park. That means eliminating the creation of on street congestion, he says. “The car park will ensure a better traffic flow,” he reasons.

Architect Martin Xuereb insists that traffic problems are not related to high-rise buildings. “This is a very big misconception because developing the site traditionally will have exactly the same impact on traffic as developing the site vertically.”

Soler insists that according to the local plan the developers can develop the 12,000 square metres of land in the area into 26 blocks with an average height of seven to eight storeys.

“The only difference is that by using the floor area ratio we will keep half of the site as an open public space.”

Another advantage of a high-rise, Soler says is that services such as garbage collection can be centralised.

He even dismisses concerns that Sliema cannot take this massive increase in traffic irrespective of whether development is high-rise or not.

Soler points out that the traffic impact studies have shown that all junctions can cope with the increase in traffic except for the one at the Pjazzetta, which is already earmarked for a new junction by 2017.

“The major problem in Sliema is one of traffic management, not one of too many cars, and the major bottleneck is at the ferries,” he says.

Xuereb also says out that parking access for visitors will be through the main roads and not through residential ones. On the other hand, access to the car park for residents of the apartments will be through Hughes Hallet Street.

He insists that the latest air quality studies, based on the assumption that by 2017 the average age of Maltese vehicles will be down from the current 14 years to 10 years, showed that emissions will remain within EU parameters.

The new project will consist of 163 new apartments, 130 of which will be located in the 38-storey tower. It will also include 4,700 square metres of office space and 8,250 square metres of retail.

Asked what sense it made to build more apartments when 32% of dwellings are vacant, Soler insisted that there is no over-supply of properties when it comes to the top end of the property market.

He refers to the fact that properties at Portomaso and Tigne are immediately sold as evidence that a market exists for properties with the right design and location.

“Properties remain vacant mostly because these are not located in the right location or have a poor design. We have both a good location and a good design.”

As regards shading, the architect acknowledges that the tower will cast a shadow on the roofs of some residences. But he insists that this will consist of a pencil shadow which will not be continuous but will move as the sun crosses the sky.

Xuereb denied claims in the EIA that the project will increase the shadowing on the public open spaces along the Qui-Si-Sana seafront. According to the EIA the scheme also impacts additional areas of the rocky foreshore at noon insofar as there will “no longer be patches of sunshine”.

Xuereb cited the results of studies showing that the major impact on the coastline will be felt in December when the tower’s shadow will extend to the sea. But in June the tower will only impact the coastline between 5 and 6pm.

Asked about the massive inconvenience caused to residents during the months of excavations and construction, Soler replied that the same inconvenience would take place if they developed the site horizontally.

He also pointed out that the advantage of developing a tower will be that a tower is only built once and permanently while low rise developments may take place more sporadically.

“The site will be developed at one go in contrast to other developments in Sliema which see apartment blocks being redeveloped after a few years.”

He also insists that the developers will not be building more apartments by building upwards instead of sideways.

“Had we applied for a traditional development we would have developed around 180 apartments in 26 blocks, [but] through high-rise we will develop a bit less.”

Architect Xuereb also explained the changes in the project over the past years by pointing out that when the project consisted of 23 floors another 15-storey tower was also proposed. The 15-storey tower has now been reduced to five storeys. The latest change saw the height of the main tower increase from 34 storeys to 38.

“We did this because the MEPA asked us to reduce the bulk of the tower at the bottom.”

They also consider the new retail development in the open spaces around the tower as a continuation of high street shopping in Bisazza Street and Tower Road.

“We did not want to create a new shopping mall. We will be creating a pedestrianised space where people can continue their shopping experience while walking along Sliema’s streets,” says Xuereb.

Soler also dismisses claims that high rise in Tigne could affect Valletta’s world heritage status. He backs this by referring to a UNESCO statement that based on the official maps of the World Heritage site, the army base near the Excelsior hotel did not fall within the boundaries of Valletta or its immediate vicinity.

3rd August Deadline for Objections re. 38 storey highrise in Sliema!
Go to this link for further details if you want to send an objection to MEPA: http://sliemanews.blogspot.com/2015/07/objections-to-townsquare-38-storey.html


  1. The traffic problem at Sliema is already aggravated. So it cannot be more aggravated. Saying that ‘4,000 extra cars won’t aggravate traffic problems’, is an acute pro business vision without any social and environmental considerations.

  2. The accepted wisdom is that more parking encourages more cars, that's fine if the road capacity can cope. But Sliema's is close to breaking point (gridlock) in addition the parking availability only accommodates less than 25% of the expected custom. The other 75% are expected to park on Sliema's already crowded streets. The shading issue is explained away with the elegance of a sundial. The only benefit to the local community will be knowing exactly what time of day and which month in the year by whom it places in the shade.

  3. Joseph Anthony GattJuly 23, 2015 at 4:31 AM

    I am sure that if the developers decide to live in Sliema they will take the apartments at the 38th floor where the contaminated air that we are already suffering from in Sliema area will not suffocate them. I do agree with the developers that 4,000 other cars will not aggravate the system. A broken crystal vase can never be broken.