In September 2021, the Planning Authority approved the updated Masterplan for Manoel Island’s development and repair. This approval comes after the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the same development on June 4, 2021.
The theme and drive behind the project aim to create a harmonious relationship between Manoel Island’s scenery and historic sites while also providing an economically viable development that would create a desirable destination for both locals and tourists. The proposed development in Gzira is limited to around 30% of the island’s area and is concentrated within the “brownfield”’ area situated to the southwest of the island.
The concept of this project revolves around a Mediterranean marina village overlooking landscaped gardens, shoreline walkways, and a picturesque yacht marina, which will berth around 350 boats. The pretty island will also be home to a boutique hotel, a waterfront casino, and many cultural, leisure, and sports facilities.
A shoreline promenade will lead up to the old Lazzaretto buildings and the majestic 18th-century Fort, both of which are fully restored. Once the development in the area is complete, the area around the fort will be open as a public park. The planned development on the island will comprise low-rise residential buildings in a unique leisure environment.
The strategy behind this project aims to combine a diverse commercial and sustainable offer with improved accessibility to historical landmarks. It is anticipated that this renovation will increase the island’s appeal to both tourists and locals.
The glacis region surrounding Fort Manoel will be converted into an 80,000 square meter completely accessible public park once the local construction is finished. Manoel Island will have car access. However, parking and most of the traffic will be underground, encouraging a car-free environment.
The planned development on the island will comprise low-rise residential buildings in a unique leisure environment. The majority of the homes will be situated in the west and center of the island, and they are placed in locations on the island where research indicates they won’t obstruct delicate archaeological sites. The parking will be underground, and the residential clusters won’t have more than four levels.
The proposed project includes residential space mixed with various cultural and recreational pursuits, lodging options, a yacht marina, and a coastline promenade leading to the magnificent Fort Manoel from the eighteenth century. An array of open spaces and piazzas will be connected to the pedestrianized streets on the Island by distinctive public spaces.
The project’s emphasis on public open spaces is one of its main motivators. This initiative aims to construct a number of new open spaces in key locations across the master plan that, while better integrating the heritage buildings, generate open spaces for recreation for the benefit of the general public. These open spaces will also include the archaeological sites that recent investigations found.
According to the EIA, the 33-story Metropolis tower that has been permitted but has not yet been built has a significant aesthetic impact. When viewed from Sliema and Valletta, the proposal, which was initially approved in 2008 and renewed in 2014, will almost soar beyond Fort Manoel.
The star-shaped fort located on the island was built in the 18th Century by the Knights of St John. It was used as a quarantine area, complete with a plague hospital, Lazzaretto, which still stands today.
The island was purchased by the Cathedral Chapter of Mdina in 1570, when it was given to the Bishop of Malta. The Maltese for it is il-Gira tal-Isqof (the Bishop’s Island), or simply l’Isola del Vescovo.
The island’s new star fort was constructed between 1723 and 1733 by Portuguese Grand Master António Manoel de Vilhena. The island was renamed at this time, and the fort was given the name Fort Manoel in his honor. Its original designs are credited to René Jacob de Tigné and are thought to have been updated by his friend and colleague Charles François de Mondion, who is interred in a crypt below Fort Manoel. It is considered a typical example of 18th-century military engineering. The Fort’s splendid quadrangle, parade ground, and arcade are all dominated by a St. Anthony of Padua baroque church.
Afterward, it was used by the British military from 1800 until they left the island in 1964. The Lazzaretto was still in use during the British era and was expanded in 1837 and 1838 under Sir Henry Bouverie’s leadership as governor. After serving as a temporary army housing facility, it was repurposed as a hospital in 1871. In order to stop the spread of infections during the 19th century, incoming mail was fumigated and cleaned at the hospital’s Profumo Office.
The fort was badly damaged by bombing and has been undergoing intensive restoration over the past years. Visitors can see much interesting military architecture, such as the pulverized and the officer’s accommodations, as well as the imposing layout of the Knights’ entrance and the main square.