On Thursday (today), Exalco CEO Alex Montanaro dismissed concerns of traffic impact caused by the upcoming development of the former Savoy Hotel site.

Traffic concerns in Rue D’Argens have recently resurfaced after the Planning Authority (PA) approved the development of a business centre. This is set to replace the Savoy Hotel on top of Rue d’Argens, an area that already sees heavy traffic on the daily.

The vote saw eight board members express themselves in favour, while one, NGO Representative Romano Cassar, voted against. His concerns were based on traffic in the area.

In comments to BusinessNow.mt Mr Montanaro says that, naturally, he is very happy to receive approval. Additionally, he remarked that works on the development are to start as soon as possible.

“We want to do something that Sliema and Gżira would be very happy and proud of and ultimately, it’s a landmark site. We are determined to make something absolutely beautiful there,” he says.

Prior to today’s PA meeting the board asked for feedback on traffic concerns from Transport Malta. However, reports state that, the transport authority replied that there is no scope for infrastructural improvements.

Asked whether Exalco had made any plans to mitigating traffic issues, Mr Montanaro states that for the company, this is the seventh business centre.

“We have a chain of centres. Wherever we have business centres, we’ve never created any significant impact on traffic,” he says.

Mr Montanaro continues that the majority of the company’s tenants are foreigners who use alternative modes of transport. “Not only the car. The culture is different than ours,” he adds.

Questioned further on the issue, Mr Montanaro says that business centre will have a large garage for during the week, preventing any impact on nearby parking. The centre will also be closed on the weekends, “so there will be less traffic in the area.”

He also highlighted that the project will be removing a petrol station in the area “which is a big plus as it will attract much less traffic.”

A previous traffic impact assessment for the Savoy redevelopment noted that the new development would generate an average of 168 car trips on weekdays. Specifically, 47 cars entering beween 8am and 9am and 37 cars leaving between 5pm and 6pm.

The assessment highlights that an office block is much preferred to a hotel or residental block. Despite so, the case officer had demanded the implementation of a green travel plan, to reduce traffic impact.

The company has submitted a 26-measure plan, including a “guaranteed emergency ride home service for office workers,” changing facilities with showers and lockers to encourage walking and cycling, and incentives for car sharing, among others.

In addition to the approval, the PA imposed a €40,000 planning gain – a monetary contribution to be paid by the developers – for urban improvement projects in Sliema and Gżira.

Originally, the planning gain was €53,000, however Mr Montanaro had previously told WhosWho.mt that the project, in itself, is a planning gain given that it will decommission the petrol station.  

About the property

Back in 2023, Exalco Properties Limited, a subsidiary of Exalco Group, acquired the Savoy Hotel from Almo Properties Limited for €5.4 million through a deed of sale.

The property, faced a long-running legal saga between different members of the site’s former owners and groups of potential buyers. The battle commenced in 2016, when one group which represented a majority ownership, signed a promise of sale agreement with Exalco Group. However, just a few months before, a minority owner, holding 1/30th of the property rights, had entered into a different agreement with Melvyn Mifsud, a lawyer.

The court battle raged on for six years, with a number of shareholdings changing hands. When the final judgement was made, a judicial sale of the site was ordered with bids starting at €2.8 million. Almo Properties, which has the same shareholders as Exalco Group, was left with an 80 per cent stake.

Schembri & Sons Limited, owners of Ferretti Catering, and operators of Ferretti Restaurant in Birżebbuga, owned most of the rest after buying out some of the original owners as well.

Almo Properties eventually won the court auction, which included bids from Schembri & Sons Limited, a subsidiary of F. Schembri & Sons, and also Ray Zammit.

The winning bid came in at €12.8 million, yet Almo only needed to pay a fifth of that price for the property.

Digital mock-ups of the project show a glass-encased business centre emerging from the side of the Category B+ monument, with the once-derelict façade restored to its former glory.

It will also include a landscaped garden that will be open to the general public during office hours.

“The property has been abandoned and dilapidated for years. It was a victim of arson, vandalism, and various anti-social aspects. Now it will be bring it back to life with a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly building,” Mr Montanaro states.

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