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MaltaToday 14 September 2022 MIDWEEK

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9 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 14 SEPTEMBER 2022 JAMES DEBONO HOTELIER Carlo Stivala has re-submitted plans to demolish Palazzina Vincenti in St Julian's despite an emergency conser- vation order issued by the Plan- ning Authority last year. The fresh plans submitted last week still envisage the demo- lition of the austere modernist building and its replacement with a 14-storey hotel. Stivala had requested a suspen- sion of the application last year following a decision by the PA to issue an emergency conserva- tion order to protect the iconic modernist building. The Emergency Conservation Order (ECO) which is valid until December 2022 was issued be- cause the property was consid- ered as "heritage at risk". In a statement issued last year, the PA described the building as one of the "best modernist ex- amples on the island". During the period covered by the conservation order, the property is regarded as a Grade 1 scheduled property – the PA's highest level of protection – un- til a full assessment is made to determine what level of long- term protection it merits. But following the reactivation of the application instead of pre- senting new plans which retain the present building, Stivala has simply presented the same plans drafted by architect Robert Mu- sumeci last year. Developers regularly ask for the suspension of planning ap- plications to buy more time or to change plans following negative feedback from regulators like the Superintendence for Cultur- al Heritage. In this case the Superintend- ence for Cultural Heritage has already concluded that Palazzi- na Vincenti, which dates back to the late 1940s, merits inclusion in the list of protected buildings. But the building fronting the St Julian's promenade risks being replaced by a bland 14-storey, 136-room hotel. The application foresees an un- derground car park set on three underground floors for 59 cars and another car park for 23 cars accessible from Triq il-Kbira on its second floor. The proposal al- so includes two restaurants, of- fices, a gym and spa, eight meet- ing rooms and a multifunction hall, an outdoor and indoor pool and a pool bar with two cabanas at roof level. Reacting to the plans a year ago the Superintendence for Cul- tural Heritage said the property merits scheduling, so that it may be protected and retained "due to their historical, architectural, social, research, representative, contextual and rarity levels". Moreover, the proposed hotel is considered objectionable in view of its adverse visual impact on the nearby urban conserva- tion area of St Julian's, and in close vicinity of several sched- uled properties such as Villa Leoni, Casa Caruana Dingli and Chateau en Mar. The landmark is a defining part of the St Julian's streetscape, marking the midpoint between Balluta and the St Julian's bays. Palazzina Vincenti was de- scribed by Malta's cultural watchdog as a "well-propor- tioned modernist residence" that was previously the residence of Gustavo Romeo Vincenti, a prominent architect of the first half of the 20th century. The property is described as a "pioneering example of modern- ist architecture that made use of reinforced concrete in a domes- tic setting" and its design as "one of the best modernist examples in Malta". The building is also represent- ative of a period of experimen- tation with "materials, geometry and styles", influenced by in- ternational architectural move- ments. While it is the SCH which makes an assessment of the val- ue of properties proposed for scheduling, it is the Planning Authority's executive council which has to approve the sched- uling. The request to protect the building was originally made by architect Edward Said in Febru- ary 2019. The SCH had assessed Said's report and concluded that the property has such historical and architectural value, that it has "officially commended to the Planning Authority that the property is scheduled, in accord- ance with Article 58 of the Cul- tural Heritage Act". Hotelier persists with plans to knock down Palazzina Vincenti in St Julian's Plans submitted last week still envisage the demolition of the austere modernist building and its replacement by a 14-storey hotel despite PA' emergency conservation order

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