AX Real Estate p.l.c. celebrates bond listing with MSE ‘ringing of the bell’ event

On Tuesday 15 February, AX Real Estate plc listed 97,193,600 Eur0.125 Ordinary A shares and trading commenced on Wednesday 16 February. AX Real Estate plc also issued 3.5% Unsecured Bonds with a nominal value of Eur40,000,0000 on Tuesday 15 February, and trading commenced on Wednesday 16 February.

MSE Chairman Mr Joseph Portelli welcomed AX Group founder and Chairman Mr Angelo Xuereb and congratulated the company of their successful listings and noted that the MSE is pleased to see entrepreneurs raise funds for projects through the capital market.  Mr Xuereb said that AX Group currently has five listings and since the first listing 25 years ago, he has realised the value of the capital markets not just for raising capital but also with respect to succession planning, which ensures continuity and growth.

Denise Micallef Xuereb, CEO of AX Real Estate said, ‘‘The purpose of the listing was to finance the significant investment in the Verdala Hotel and Virtu Heights project in Rabat, together with the Suncrest hotel extension in Qawra. The finance that is being raised through the listing is part of the estimated EUR 110 M required to complete these mentioned projects, both of which are currently progressing well and on schedule.   We remain committed to building on AX Group’s track record and elevating this success further to ensure good long-term property investment opportunities.’’

Mr Michael Warrington said that ‘‘Decades ago, AX Group set out a path for its real estate operations with two firm goals: firstly, to consistently advance quality standards in the properties it develops and manages; and secondly, to give its investors and clients long-term peace of mind through sound property investment opportunities and long-term growth. Today, having consolidated the Group’s well-diversified portfolio of managed local properties under AX Real Estate p.l.c. we are an industry leader’’.

Mr Xuereb expressed gratitude to the members of the Board for their continued support, to the Malta Stock Exchange team and the sponsors namely, Rizzo Farrugia, MZ Investments and Curmi & Partners, to Bank of Valletta as Manager and Registrar, and Camilleri Preziosi who acted as Legal Counsel, all of whom helped make the listings a success.

The need for a monorail – Angelo Xuereb

 

I am very pleased that President George Vella strongly supports the idea to introduce a monorail system to eliminate traffic congestion and ever-increasing emissions in Malta.

I have been promoting the concept of introducing a monorail system since 1991. At the time, I already considered the traffic problem acute. Now, 30 years later, the problem is becoming more and more severe. Admittedly, significant strides are continuously being made to improve our road network. However, if vehicles continue to increase, we will have no other option but to create more flyovers, traffic junctions and wider roads, all to the detriment of our environment and our health.

While I welcome the government’s call for a study into the introduction of a monorail/ metro system, this has been dragging on for far too long.

The government would greatly benefit by opening up the discussion to public consultation. I am not against a plan being drawn up by foreign experts but, from my experience, local experts and stakeholders are more aware of the particularities of the problems we face.

Recently, my friend, engineer Konrad Xuereb has also been promoting the idea of introducing a metro system. The least that the government or its consultants can do is approach us, listen to our views and concerns and then continue with their in-depth studies. These studies will reveal if it is better to opt for a monorail or metro system. The key thing is that we implement a modern, mass transportation system to improve mobility across the country.

Since my first proposal of 1991, I have continued to extend and improve the system over the years. I have published these updated proposals in 1996, 2001, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Naturally, the more in-depth the studies conducted, the more refined a concept we can come up with to determine the system, routes and location of the stations that would be the least damaging and most cost-effective. This study would also include the best way to split the project into phases.

For clearer context, many consider a monorail as a tram travelling on an elevated structure. The meaning of ‘mono’ is ‘single’. Therefore, a single rail system can either be on an elevated structure or a single rail (single continuous concrete beams) that passes through a tunnel.

My proposal is to have a system that makes use of both elevated and tunnel rails. The gradient of the rail should not exceed 10 degrees, which will allow the underground tunnel to pass beneath urban areas and hills, while elevated rails will be erected in rural areas.

For many reasons, the stations and interchange points should not be located in the urban core but in the periphery of the urban areas to provide an integrated public transportation system. It is impossible to have a station in the centre of each of our towns and villages, considering the heritage, space and incompatible structures. For better efficiency, these stations will still need to integrate electric buses, which can be referred to as ‘circular buses’, that follow a route around urban areas and transport commuters directly to the nearest station.

“My proposal is to have a system that makes use of both elevated and tunnel rails– Angelo Xuereb.”

It is imperative that there be frequent bus stops to encourage commuters to walk to their nearest bus stop, for not more than 10 minutes, rather than use their personal car.

The monorail system proposed plan shown in the picture is feasible and has more advantages than a complete underground metro system.

It will also offer a pleasant route to view our rural areas when passing over elevated routes. Furthermore, elevated routes are much cheaper to construct than underground and make it more possible to avoid disturbing underground freshwater springs and galleries in rural areas.

It may take more than 10 years to complete the entire system from the final approval of the master plan. Therefore, it is a must that the project be developed in phases. The first phase should target the most congested urban areas around the inner and outer harbour areas. When localities like Valletta, Cottonera, Marsa, Ħamrun, Msida, Sliema and Gżira areas were developed these were never designed for car parking and, in fact, have minimal or no private garages. To make matters worse, these areas are densely populated and full of narrow streets.

Once this initial stage is implemented, it will be easier to carry out extensions to the grid over the subsequent phases. The second priority is to extend to the airport, Paceville, St Paul’s Bay and Marsascala areas. Over time, the government will decide on the priorities that extend to Ċirkewwa.

It is of utmost importance that when a master plan is proposed it has to be approved by all political parties in parliament. This is a long-term project that cannot be halted after a new party is elected to government.

The government should seriously take up the introduction of this modern and environmentally friendly integrated public transportation system with urgency. Time is crucial considering our ever-increasing traffic and environmental issues.

Angelo Xuereb is chairman AX Group.

AX Group inaugurates new business centre in Mosta

AX Group – Malta’s leading diversified corporation operating in construction, development, healthcare, hospitality, and renewable energy – unveiled its new flag-ship Business Centre

AX Group – Malta’s leading diversified corporation operating in construction, development, healthcare, hospitality, and renewable energy – unveiled its new flag-ship Business Centre in Triq id-Difiża Ċivili, Mosta during an inauguration event attended by Prime Minister Robert Abela, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses Silvio Schembri, and Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development Miriam Dalli.

By harnessing its core values of creativity, determination and integrity, the past few years have seen AX Group and its accomplished workforce achieve significant growth across its award-winning business portfolio with a range of successful projects. Due to this rapid expansion, plans were set in motion to develop a new business centre that would centralise and foster greater synergy among the entire Group.

“This inauguration event fills me with a sense of nostalgia for the first few months of my career that began 45 years ago. Since then, AX Group has grown from a humble home office to comprise 35 companies with net assets worth €227 million. This new Business Centre is the fruit of a lifetime of hard work, grounded in leadership, vision, efficiency, and determination. I am proud that my children, Claire and Denise, are taking the reins of the business so that, together with the CEO and key team of the Group, the AX story will continue successfully into the next generation,” says Angelo Xuereb, Founder and Chairman of AX Group.

Upwards of €12 million was invested into the entire project, with €6 million dedicated to the Business Centre alone. The state-of-the-art office complex – masterminded by Mr Xuereb and built by the Group’s construction team – comprises 12,000 m2 in all, of which 3,000 m2 are dedicated to AX Group office space, spread over two floors. The Business Centre was designed by architect Philip Micallef with interior design by architect Dorianne Ellis. The Group’s vast experience and resources in construction and development were instrumental in the various phases of the project, which was completed in a record 15 months, well ahead of its projected timescale, and despite the many obstacles created by the pandemic.

“Inside and out, the AX Business Centre was designed to set a benchmark for the next-wave of modern business headquarters in Malta, with the building being a true reflection of the high level of quality AX Group is renowned for. The interior design draws inspiration from each of the Group’s business operations, blending corporate functionality with industrial and hospitality touches, to create a vibrant building that is both distinguished and contemporary. The building also embraces our commitment to sustainable development through a range of eco-conscious design features, such as thermal and acoustic insulation as well solar PV panels to be installed soon so as to improve the building’s energy efficiency further,” says Denise Micallef Xuereb, Director of Construction and Development at AX Group.

Various other sustainable measures were implemented throughout the building to reduce its carbon footprint, including the use of natural ventilation systems and extensive floor-to-ceiling, double-glazed windows to make optimal use of natural light.

The AX Business Centre is thoughtfully planned out to contribute to a healthier work-life ethos for the Group’s employees and provides ample space and amenities to deliver an inspiring environment for work, creativity, and productivity. The building features hot desking facilities, informal breakout rooms, and space for the AX Academy for training and induction purposes. A four-level basement carpark ensures the building is commute-friendly, while a playroom in the shared canteen provides working mothers and fathers with a safe, fun environment to bring their children to the office.

“The new AX Business Centre embodies our dynamic brand and forward-looking company culture. We believe this inspiring, contemporary building is the HQ our talented team deserves, and will attract the highest-calibre people to our company. We’ll continue to create exciting work opportunities that offer professional development and the opportunity to rise within the company ranks,” says Mr Michael Warrington, CEO of AX Group.

At the heart of the Business Centre is an expansive expo room, which chronicles Mr Xuereb’s inspiring 45-year career through scale-models of the Group’s many successful developments, historic photos, and memorabilia. The room was designed to serve as inspiration for the next generation of business entrepreneurs, to illustrate how with determination and vision one can overcome many challenges, not merely for personal success, but to shape Malta’s economy and infrastructure for the better.

The law must change – Angelo Xuereb

Circumstances in the building industry are different and challenges more acute

The following are my comments on how we can improve the new construction laws for the benefit of all those concerned. They are based on my 45 years of practical experience in the construction industry.

Excavation adjacent to party walls

During my tenure as president of the Fede­ration of Building Contractors (FOBC), we had presented our concerns and published an article in the Times of Malta on January 7, 2007, with our recommendations. Most of its content is still applicable today, although the challenges now are more acute due to developments requiring deeper excavations.

For more than 12 years, we have been highlighting the need to change the law – specifically Section 439 of the Civil Code – stipulating a 76cm distance of excavation from third-party walls. This law came into force over 150 years ago (1868) with the purpose of protecting the stability of wells, not adjacent buildings, and has remained unchanged since.

The law states: “It shall not be lawful for any person to dig in his own tenant, any well, cistern or sink, or to make any other excavation for any purpose whatsoever, at a distance of less than 76 centimetres from the party wall.” In that era, developers would have had no real reason to cut rock to construct basements since in those days there was ample space for development.

Today, the circumstances have chang­ed, and it is imperative that structures are designed within the boundaries of each individual site while making the necessary allowances for the stability of nearby structures.

Ultimately, having a blanket requirement to leave a gap of 76cm from the third-party wall up to the neighbour’s foundation does not serve to protect neighbouring structures. This leads to the practice of either having the overlying structure supported by the dividing wall or creating a huge cantilever structure at ground level.

The problems usually present themselves when the adjacent property decides to repeat the same methodology, resulting in the foundation of the dividing party wall being left in a very weak and dangerous state. The fragile, narrow rock left in between the properties is prone to give way under heavy loads.

Similarly, the law – Section 407 of the Civil Code – regarding the thickness of the party walls, must also change. It does not make sense any more to have 230cm- or 380cm-wide walls. These walls are being abused by irresponsible chasing horizontally on both sides.

In short, these two laws, namely Section 407 and 439 of our Civil Code related to the party wall, must be amended to reflect today’s realities.

The Site Technical Officer

While I agree that all sites must be supervised by a Site Technical Officer, I do not agree that there is need to appoint an independent STO. I will explain the reasons for this further on.

Any development needs three entities – the developer, the architect and the contractor.

The developer is not expected to be technical, which is why an architect is appointed to provide direction on all technical matters.

The architect is responsible for the design of all the drawings and structures, including excavation, foundations and other technical matters. The architect may appoint other specialists such as geologists, structural engineers and interior designers, where necessary.

It is a known fact that architects are normally involved in several projects being developed simultaneously, which means  it is impossible for them to physically attend each site every day. But the architect should have the obligation to visit the sites periodically and when needed.

 

It is hard to believe that a hawker dealing with a few hundred euro needs a licence to operate while a building contractor dealing in millions does not need one

 

The architect may appoint his or her representative to oversee a project and coordinate with the contractor to assure himself/herself that their design is being adhered to properly, with the ultimate responsibility still lying with the architect.

The contractor is responsible for the method statement, construction management plan (CMP) and the construction and supervision of all works related to their contract. This means they need to appoint an STO or a project manager to follow the design and other instructions from the architect.

The contractor’s role is to give a service to the developer based on the design and instructions of the architect.

No need for independent STOs

If the three aforementioned entities adhere to their responsibilities, there should be no need to appoint an independent STO. This additional role would create disagreement and confusion between the three entities that can easily end up with litigations, with the possibility of delaying the project time frames to the detriment of all those in­volved, including the neighbours.

Registration and licensing of contractors

It is hard to believe that a hawker dealing with a few hundred euro needs a licence to operate while a building contractor or an excavation contractor dealing in contracts worth millions does not need one! With immediate effect, the Building Regulation Office (BRO) should start with their registration, followed by their classification.

This would help inexperienced developers choose the right contractors that fit the size and expected quality of their development. It would be like the classification of hotels based on certain standards. If one chooses to stay in a 3-star hotel, they would not be expecting a 5-star service, and vice versa.

To develop large projects, the requirements are more intense, with more responsibility and a higher price to pay. In this way, the developer has the liberty to choose the classified contractor and receive the service for which he is paying.

In conclusion, developments involve many other trades, but I have kept my short comments only in relation to third party walls, construction/excavation and site responsibility during the construction phase, as well as licensing.

If these are adhered to, I am sure we can have more quality projects, more reliable methods of construction, excavation and, above all, more protection to the neighbours and the surrounding residents.

Is land reclamation feasible? – Angelo Xuereb

I have been publishing my views on construction and demolition waste since early 2000, when the matter was not in the public consciousness as much as it is now. Already then I identified the issue as a national problem requiring immediate action, let alone now, when excavations are going deeper than ever before.

Today, following recent discussions regarding land reclamation, certain crucial facts and considerations of fundamental importance are still not being addressed. Certain important decisions which might not immediately gain political points have to be taken, as the long-term effects of not doing so will have a severe impact on the environment, quality of life, tourism, and more importantly, the legacy we bequest to our future generations.

It is therefore imperative that this subject is debated between technical professionals and experienced people in this field. I would also like to share my views, as I have deepened my knowledge on the subject through 40 years of experience in the industry and following personal research.

Our shores and seascape cannot be compared to those in Dubai, Hong Kong, or others where the sea is relatively shallow and reclamation was carried out within existing sheltered harbours. Our surrounding sea is deep. Before simply dumping debris along our coastline, a breakwater, not simply a sea wall, must be constructed.

If we adopt an uninformed approach the effect would be that all dumped material would be washed away and spread all over the coastline as soon as there is a wind force of 7 or 8, which happens on an annual basis. This would spell disaster for all our sea flora and fauna at least for the surrounding five kilometres!

Our own history also teaches us valuable lessons. When construction waste was dumped in Balluta Bay, a relatively sheltered area, just after World War II, it was all washed away in a short time…

Another attempt at reclamation was made in Msida, which was retained. However, Msida is a very sheltered area and the water in that area of the harbour is very shallow. At the Freeport, which is open to the elements and where the sea is deep, the huge concrete quays were constructed only after the breakwater completed.

The country’s accumulated experience on the subject confirms without doubt the absolute requirement of having a breakwater to retain the material.

In the past we used to refer to this sort of waste as construction and demolition (C&D) waste. Today it’s referred to as Excavation and Demolition waste. Regardless of the nomenclature, the fact remains that 85 per cent of all this material is generated through excavation, the result of which is clean, inert material that can be utilised.

The demolition material, on the other hand, is contaminated with lime, paint, pieces of wood, steel and other contaminants. A degree of waste separation is possible, however, it is impossible to have it clean enough for sea use.

This means it is imperative that a decision is taken without any further delay to reserve the handful of disused quarries for the demo­lition waste, while finding a way to exploit the use of clean excavation waste for the benefit of the country.

The exact quantity is not known since a number of excavation contractors dump into their own quarries without it being recorded. However, it is estimated that, all in all, clean excavation waste amounts to three million tons per year.

The two disused quarries currently available will last around five years before filling up. Where will the three million tons per year of clean, inert excavation material be disposed of after that? I am sure no one would appreciate another Mount Magħtab next to their village!

There are solutions but these must be seriously discussed between all major stakeholders who must then take responsible and practical decisions. Any master plan must be considered for a period of at least 50 years.

 

Our shores and seascape cannot be compared to those in Dubai, Hong Kong or others where the sea is relatively shallow… Our surrounding sea is deep

So let’s look at the bigger picture and consider the relevant facts, as that is the only way of taking the right decisions while reusing Malta’s only raw material.

A breakwater of 15 to 20 metres in depth with five metres above sea level would cost around €70 million per kilometre. To hold excavation material generated over a period of, say, 20 years (equivalent to say 60 million tons), one would require a breakwater of a length of approximately five kilometres, at a total cost of €350 million!

The construction of the breakwater would take a minimum of five years before it is primed for the dumping of any material.

Let’s assume we could afford to finance this land reclamation… even if we did, such a high cost would render any development financially unfeasible.

Malta’s available lower coralline limestone (hardstone) used to produce the gravel for concrete is quickly diminishing, which means we have to import all the gravel, at a higher cost. Therefore, we should try to make use of this clean excavation material instead of hard stone gravel for non-structural uses.

On the other hand, the idea of reconstituted stone is definitely not financially feasible for building purposes. It would cost over 10 times more than a new stone block, and the volume needed is insignificant.

Here are some of my suggestions on how to use the material which could be considered:

Create underwater artificial reefs (see figure 1) in selected areas, covered with sand and kilometres away from the coastline. Waves will not disturb material at 12 metres below sea level, and in order to protect this material from the lower currents these reefs can be secured with geo textile and large boulders or ‘tetrapots’ on their periphery. Once these reefs are closed off, this will create a habitat for various flora and fauna.

Create underwater breakwaters below 12 metres of sea level, located in certain open bays, but invisible from the landside. These will protect the erosion of our sandy beaches and possibly extend them. Construction methods would be the same utilised for the above mentioned artificial reefs. This will also create more shelter for boating and create the right conditions for flora and fauna.

Create tetrapots or quatropots (concrete blocks to support sea walls like those at Ċirkewwa). For the blocks below sea level these can consist of washed gravel from excavation waste, sand from lower coralline limestone, and cement. In order to achieve the required weight, these concrete blocks can be larger than those cast with lower coralline limestone (hardstone). These could also be used on a periphery of the underwater breakwater or artificial reefs mentioned above.

Create a large upmarket marina similar to Port Grimaud, in the south of France, where a marina for yachts is linked with luxury accommodation. Any reclamation must be contained in shallow areas within a bay, with concrete piles and a breakwater constructed before any material is disposed of between the contained areas.

Use it for new road sub-base (see figure 2). Instead of a bitumen mix sub base we can use a thicker concrete base using washed excavation stone gravel with a slightly thicker final wearing bitumen course to guarantee tyre grip for a period of 10 years. The present lower bitumen base mix is not adequate since it is too soft. This makes the present imported good quality gravel and top wearing course recede to the lower level of the bitumen layer due to hot weather and heavy loads, with slippery road surfaces after just a few years.

Having studied this subject in depth I can definitely conclude the following:

• NO to land reclamation by the coast;

• NO to dumping of clean excavation material into disused quarries;

• YES to dumping of demolition waste into the few available disused quarries;

• YES to reusing Malta’s only raw material on large scale in the best possible manner;

• YES to the creation of artificial underwater reefs;

• YES to the creation of underwater breakwaters;

• YES to the reuse of excavation waste in road construction;

• YES for its reuse instead of lower coralline gravel hardstone for non-structural use;

• YES to the creation of up to three depots (one north, one south, one in Gozo) from where one can buy selected grades of stone for its reuse for different purposes.

The disposal of waste generated by construction activity is an acute national problem which we must resolve now. Not another second should be wasted, and a 50-year holistic plan has to be devised, as continuing to fire-fight the issue is no longer an option. I therefore strongly recommend the government appoints a professional and technical team to put forward a practical and feasible plan.

We certainly shouldn’t burden the next generation with acute problems that we should be able to solve ourselves today.

For a better Valletta

I’ve been harping on the need for a holistic master plan for Valletta for over two decades. The first article I wrote, suggesting a master plan for the capital city, was published in The Sunday Times in 1989. Since then, some of my proposals have been taken on board – the maritime link from Sliema to Valletta to Cottonera, pedestrianisation projects, the total upgrading of City Gate (Triton Square), the de Valette statue, and the Park & Ride in Horn Works Ditch. Others have been shelved or ditched.

Recently, I launched a 10-year master plan for our capital city. Valletta is short of adequate parking spaces. I’m suggesting two large underground car parks in its vicinity – one with a capacity of around 3,000 cars, which can be developed below the Floriana playing field, while reconstructing the existing football ground and other outdoor facilities together with a new regional indoor sports centre.

I’m also suggesting transforming the playing field in Floriana, overlooking Grand Harbour, into another large car park. In addition, I’m proposing mini-underground car parks for the top management of firms and hotels located in Valletta during the day, as well as a car park underneath the Valletta primary school – which can be demolished and rebuilt into a modern state-of-the art school.

This car park could be used by residents and patrons and employees of the Mediterranean Conference Centre. My master plan for Valletta includes a new hotel to replace the shabby Evans Buildings.

 

The vision for Valletta is that of a vibrant city

Currently, the main commercial activities are centred in the upper part of Republic and Merchants streets. In order to generate further commercial activity, I’m also proposing the development of 5-star hotels on the periphery of Valletta which indirectly would upgrade the area.

One way to generate commercial activity all around Valletta is to create a free public shuttle circular bus system with low-floor buses – free of charge to the consumer. This could be done immediately, and does not require large-scale investment.

To promote a more car-free Valletta, I’m suggesting two transportation nodes: a land transportation node next to the Granaries, which would give commuters a wide choice of entering Valletta – the circular buses to the centre of the city; a taxi or electric cab; a horse-drawn cab or a link to the underground electric tram that connects the Park & Ride to City Gate.

Valletta requires constant renovation and restoration works. For this purpose, I’m suggesting the restoration of the two ravelin ditches that lie beneath the Triton Fountain, and the fountain relocated to a more suitable location.

These two ditches are already connected to the new City Gate lift and to the old railway tunnel which can be linked to the Park & Ride by means of an electric tram operating 24 hours, seven days a week. In its place an open space which many have often suggested for the entrance of the capital city.

It would complement Renzo Piano’s entrance to our capital. I am also suggesting that the Palace be converted into a national museum housing artefacts from various eras of Malta’s history together with the MUZA building. With better transport systems in place, and adequate parking spaces, pedestrianisation in Valletta can be implemented on a wider scale. This could well be complemented with a well-designed promenade at Marsamxett and Barriera Wharf.

Maritime connectivity is crucial to connect Valletta to other touristic hotspots – mainly Sliema/St Julian’s and the Cottonera. Maritime connectivity between the three encourages further investment in the catering industry. The tender for the tunnel connecting the Sliema Ferries to Valletta and Cottonera is currently being processed.

Once implemented, it shall generate more commercial activity in all three cities. I’m also suggesting a maritime transportation node located at the bottom of Ta’ Liesse Hill in the vicinity of the Barracca lift. This could also be used by a fast ferry shuttle service to and from Gozo, generating commercial activity there as well.

Once this is functioning, tourists heading to Gozo would be able to take a taxi to Valletta and all the way to Gozo. Of course, this would also be of benefit to the residents of Gozo.

The cruise liner industry needs to be nurtured. Hence my suggestion for another cruise liner quay in the vicinity of the old fish market at Barriera Wharf, incorporating a marina for super yachts.

While commercial activity in Valletta is to the benefit of its business community, residents should be given equal priority. I am therefore putting forward a wide range of proposals – from the most basic: the restoration of all its façades, to incentives which include the conversion of temporary rent to long-term leases to attract new residents to Valletta.

An inventory of government-owned buildings in Valletta is long overdue – it will help to identify which properties government can dispose of or put up for rent or long let. I am also suggesting that certain zones in Valletta should be for residential purposes only, while others allocated to office and commercial activity.

All outdoor live entertainment should come to a halt at 11pm. Valletta cannot be turned into another Paceville. Deliveries too should be restricted to off-peak hours in order to create the least disturbance possible to the Valletta residents and its visitors.

I’m also suggesting the use of underutilised convents located within the city and the demolishing of social housing at its entrance.

There are large convents which today house a few nuns and friars. I’m sure that the Church would be willing to convert them for other useful purposes, as are homes for the elderly or child care centres – the latter a welcoming relief to thousands of young parents who work in Valletta. Social housing at the entrance of Valletta is an eyesore, which a capital city does not deserve. I am therefore suggesting the relocation of its families to other vacant property in Valletta, given to them fully restored, serviced with lifts and modern common areas and on a freehold title, contrary to the leased titles they currently enjoy. This way the lessors would be greatly compensated for the move.

The demolition of these dwellings shall uncover the gem that is Palazzo Ferreria and provide unobstructed views of St John’s Cavalier. The existing commercial entities can still be located in a modern structure around the new large square at a lower level, in order not to interfere with the surrounding beauty. Access to this new square shall be complimentary to the new adjacent Spanish steps.

I shall in the coming months launch a wider discussion, themed Għal Belt Aħjar (For a better Valletta) with key stakeholders and residents alike.

My vision for Valletta is that of a vibrant city: more parking facilities; free circular buses; better maritime connectivity; pedestrianisation; public gardens; restoration and renovation of private and public buildings; better enforcement to safeguard residents rights and incentives to generate commercial and touristic activity.  Renaissance – revitalising our capital city.

Angelo Xuereb is chairman and  CEO of AX Holdings.

Building on a Sound Format

At a time when the construction industry in our country is passing through rather a dry period, the federation of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors felt the need to be proactive in an attempt to create those areas that need it without concentrating exclusively on the “building of new apartments”.

Proposal for a new Sliema Waterfront

While the recent upgrading of Tower Road and Qui-Si-Sana is commendable, one should now consider the upgrading of the Sliema waterfront on The Strand Side. before a masterplan is developed for this prestigious location, one has to take into consideration the needs of this location, together with its long term potential.

Let’s Re-Expose St Magdalen Ravelin

The announcement that the government will be relocating the Triton Fountain as part of the Valletta entrance project is commendable. The architecture and sculpture of the Triton Fountain do not blend with the new Holistic design approach of the new city gate and therefore relocating it was inevitable. The fountain’s base was constructed in large precast blocks of local hard stone and mosaic hence, if handled with care, it can be easily shifted.

Angelo Xuereb on AX Holdings’ 35th anniversary

In the same breath that Angelo Xuereb looks back at his achievements of AX Holdings over the past 35 years, he adds: “I wish we did more”. He is full of energy and still puts in a 12-hour day and appreciates most of the determination he has demonstrated over the years.