Malta - Building on its cultural heritage

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Malta - Building on its cultural heritage

Cultural heritage and the Maltese Islands are words that easily go hand in hand.

The central Mediterranean islands - Malta and its smaller sister, Gozo - contain some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world, ancient temples constructed in the Neolithic Age around 3600-2500 BC.

The islands also have many examples of centuries old buildings built by the Knights of St. John and for years, tourists have flocked there to see these historic monuments and fortifications.

Now, as many are being restored in conjunction with smart new apartments and houses, second home buyers are showing a marked interest too - attracted by the winning combination of modern luxury combined with history and character. It's been a big trend in nearby Italy too (see page 100), although for a different reason.

Another benefit of all this renovation of previously dilapidated sites in Malta is that their improvement has led to the regeneration of the areas around them.

Such projects are also often located in Specially Designated Areas (SDAs), which offer fewer restrictions and less paperwork for non-resident buyers making them more attractive on the international market" says Justin Tonna of Dhalia Real Estate.

The first major fortification to be restored was Tigné Point, which got underway in 2002. It's a landmark project that has been heavily marketed.

At the fringe end of the point is Fort Tigné, built in 1792, currently being restored as part of a major redevelopment project by the MIDI Consortium.

On the site of the Tigné military barracks, which the British built and which fell into decay in the late 1900s and were demolished in 2001, 240 luxury apartments have been built.

Just launched is T10 - the last release of the Tigné South Phase with a mix of two bedroom apartments and six duplex and triplex penthouses.

These are finished to a very high quality and overlook the waterfront with prices starting at €350,000/£289,762 (franksalt.com.mt).

Gozo's Fort Chambray

Also in early 2000s, work began on Fort Chambray, which lies on the south eastern corner of Gozo with stunning views across to Comino Island and Malta.

The large fortification was built as a small city within a fortress and now villas, maisonettes and apartments have been designed to recreate the feel of an old Medina.

The development will be pedestrianized with an underground car park and prices in the first two phases currently start from €186,000 (£153,976) for a two bedroom apartment and from €256,000 (£211,924) for a three bedroom apartment.

Later, there will be a third phase of villas and apartments, plus a boutique spa hotel and the original Knights' Barracks will be converted for use as a Commercial and Conference Centre (franksalt.com.mt).

Fort Cambridge

More recently work is underway at Fort Cambridge, which is adjacent to Tigné Point.

Here, the old Cambridge Battery is being restored and turned into a public venue beside which there are seafront one to four bedroom apartments, duplexes and penthouses developed by Gap Developments in two large apartment blocks.

With an underground car park, two swimming pools, fitness centre, gardens and 24-hour security, prices range from €222,000 (£183,767) with penthouses €1.515m (£1.24m) (franksalt.com.mt).

Manoel Island

Yet another site to be renovated is the historic buildings on Manoel Island in Sliema Creek. The island used to be called Bishop's Island, when it belonged to the church and its splendid fortress, built in the 18th century, has been totally restored after substantial damage in the Second World War.

The developer, MIDI, is now concentrating on restoring the Lazaretto, which dates back to 1643. This was first used as a quarantine centre and later, as a hospital and military base.

MIDI (midimalta.com) has plans for a Mediterranean style village with low level bungalows and a 5-star hotel set around a marina creating an elite development.

The area around the fort will be retained as a public park. "I am certain Manoel Island will be another success story just like the recent project across the bay at Tigné Point having similar views," says Michael Mifsud of Dhalia.

Ancient historic houses

It is not only historic fortifications that are being brought back to life. Many of the beautiful 400-year old houses, which lay neglected for decades in some of Malta's oldest cities, are also being renovated and modernised to a very high standard by local architects for private individuals.

"Over the last few months, we have seen an enormous increase in interest in properties with a cultural heritage - so much so that as a company we have launched a new brand - the Heritage Collection" (vallettaheritage.com) says Nick Bilocca of Frank Salt.

Valletta, the capital of Malta, has been designated the European Capital of Culture 2018 and this has also helped to create a surge of interest in property in the city.

These 17th century houses appeal to buyers who love living in a place which has a bit of heritage says Nick.

The agent is selling a two bedroom maisonette for €184,000; a fabulous duplex penthouse finished to designer standard with two bedrooms and roof terrace for €698,000 and a massive 18th century double fronted house with over 1,000 square metres, four bedrooms, four bathrooms and 4 reception rooms for €2.5 million.

In Vittoriosa, which is adjacent to Valleta with a historic waterfront, prices are a little lower.

The city was originally known as Birgu, but was given the name of Città Vittoriosa, Italian for 'victorious city' after it was almost captured by the Ottoman army during the Siege of Malta in 1565.

It has a similar feel to Valletta, but is slightly less cosmopolitan. Here you could buy a fabulous four-bedroom restored house with views of Grand Harbour and Valletta for €975,000 or a three-bed apartment, fully furnished and with one parking place, for €385,000 in St. Angelo Mansions, adjacent to the restored Fort St. Angelo.

Properties in renovated developments may carry a higher price tag because they are finished to very high standards and have a number of amenities, plus commanding views. But you also have the benefit of a desirable location and the knowledge that you are living in a piece of the island's past.

Author

A Place In The Sun