Driving, or walking, along the busy and twisting coast road of Sliema, on the north-east of Malta, it would be difficult not to notice the forest of cranes on the skyline.
The construction of residential property apartment blocks, villas and houses continues apace on this small Mediterranean island.
But it is in the large and prosperous conurbation town of Sliema and neighbouring St Julians/Paceville that residential development is at full throttle. Any plot that can be garnered for in-filling will do: squeezing an eight-storey block of flats here, a detached house there.
Portomaso, a luxury 20-block development of 330 apartments (including 15 penthouses) is fast nearing completion. Many properties overlook the picturesque man-made yacht marina, venue for a the one-off Opera on the Water performance. The London City Opera played Puccini’s La Bohe me on a special stage built on a huge barge in the marina.
Choice of apartments is varied: from one-bedroom units, with seaview, priced at LM120,000, to three-bedrooms with sea view some with private terraces at LM240,000, and rising to LM500,000. Prices for the four-bedroom penthouses, in shell form only, vary from LM420,000 to LM700,000 (including a small pool).
Maurice Tabone, sales and marketing director of developers Tumas Group, says: «All the two-bedroom properties with sea views have been sold.
«The rest of the apartments will be placed on the market in phases. I expect they will be sold and finished by October 2004.»
Just a few minutes’ drive away, the multi-phase Tigne Point project, once completed in 2009, will provide nearly 500 residential units, leisure facilities, multiplex cinemas, offices and retail space. The first apartments are scheduled for completion in 2005.
This ambitious undertaking will cover 50 acres and cost an estimated LM80m about Euros 129m. It is being developed by Manoel Island Development Investments (Midi), a consortium of leading businesses, insurance companies and banks. Roughly half of the project will be devoted to residential space, with promenades and tree-lined piazzas. The rest will be a mixture of offices including a 17-storey tower block 2,500 sq metres of retail space and various leisure facilities.
The first phase, known as South Central and close to the southern foreshore overlooking the stunning Sliema Creek harbour, where much of the residential content will be built, should be completed by summer 2005.
Prices vary from LM109,000 for the smallest two-bedroom apartments, rising to LM120,000 for more lofty properties.
Two dozen penthouses of different sizes will be priced at up to LM675,000. Most will have terraces with open-air swimming pools.
Even before construction started, developers Midi sold 140 apartments in a few weeks, most of them to Maltese, but with a fair share of overseas purchasers.
Ben Muscat, chief executive of Midi, says Maltese buyers were enthusiastic. Take-up by locals is about 80 per cent, with the rest sold to overseas buyers. Tigne Point is situated a few minutes’ walk from Sliema’s main shopping areas, restaurants, hotels and cafes and barely a 10-minute ferry ride away from the ancient ramparts and church spires of Valletta, the island’s capital.
In Rabat, 10 miles to the south-west, a smaller, luxurious away-from-it-all residential development has been completed, enjoying spectacular 180-degree panoramic views of the breathtaking Maltese landscape. This includes towns and villages, dotted 600ft below but within sight of the Mediterranean.
Verdala Mansions is a four-block development, each providing eight apartments and a penthouse named after famous grand masters of the Knights of St John.
AX Holdings, another Maltese company, is the developer of these high-rise, high-class apartments, located next door to the five-star Verdala hotel and a few minutes walk from the closed city of Mdina, once Malta’s capital. Apartments all with three bedrooms and terraces are on the market from LM120,000 to LM495,000. Penthouses start at LM450,000, rising to LM600,000. Andrew Gatt, operations director at Dhalia, agent for Verdala Mansions, says «a number of the properties have been sold and the first residents will start moving in next month».
Between them, these projects cater for various tastes and pockets.
Financial Times (London,England) October 29, 2003