On Monday, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Aaron Farrugia announced the proposal for a new underground parking on The Strand in Sliema, an area that is full of life and business activity.
Through a Facebook post, Minister Farrugia issued a call for preliminary market research into the project with the intent of creating an underground parking space with an open green space above it. He explained that the call is to request information and ideas on how the project could move forward. Government’s etenders submission, shows that the call is expected to expire on 12th January.
With new projects come new construction constraints that will certainly increase the chaos of the area, as Sliema is one of Malta’s favourite spots for locals and tourists, especially given the retail scene.
Nonetheless, for Giorgio’s Cafè and Sisley’s retail shop, this is not an issue. Moreso, they agree that this project was long overdue, and it is crucial in the area.
Kevin Attard, owner of the long-established Giorgio’s Cafè stated that in the area parking is limited, unlike other spots in Sliema, and so it is important that this is addressed.
“The main issue is the completion of the project. There are projects on the seaside, that have been in the works for years on end, and its not right that visiting tourists are faced with dust and unfinished projects,” he added.
In unison, Christine Pace, Managing Director of Dorkins & Fashion, including Sisley situated in The Strand, said that talks for such a project have started more than 15 years ago, including to use parking contributions as funding for the underground parking. “But at the time nothing happened.”
The plan for an underground parking was originally approved by the Planning Authority (then MEPA) in 2012, under a Nationalist Party (PN) administration.
The plan consisted of a 200-space underground car park with a garden on top, including two monuments in memory of Sliema’s war victims and football legend Tony Nicholl, the cost estimated to reach €7 million.
As Ms Pace explained, €3.5 million of the project was expected to be financed from the Planning Authority’s commuted parking payment scheme. The issue at the time was that Sliema Ferries was located on reclaimed land, prone to flooding.
The plan was, however, put swept under the rug by the PL administration, citing that it does not fall “within its immediate priorities.” The idea was brought back to life again in 2018 but was not mentioned again, until this week.
“What we want now is that whenever the works start, they are finished in a timely matter, unlike the landing terminal that was started but to this day it remains unfinished,” stated Ms Pace.
Asked about whether this would put a strain on the employees of their businesses, Mr Attard stated that in Sliema, there is always a road that is closed, or a crane set up for a new construction site.
“Yes, we might suffer for two or three years until the project is completed but in the long term its much more beneficial to have an underground parking and a green area where people can enjoy a neat and serene open space,” he continued.