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Brainless frenzy of concrete making - Adrian Grima

What really strikes you in db Group’s megalomaniac project proposal for the ITS site in Pembroke is the utter disregard for the people who have been living in the apartment blocks across the road for years.

To peep into the mind of the people who are coldly plundering our land, polluting our air, blotting out our sun and denying us our fundamental right to live in peace, have a look at db’s Project Design Statement for its mega project.

It’s nothing short of messianic.

The “proposed city centre multi-use development”, we’re told, is “the brainchild of Silvio Debono”. With its 37-floor tower and 19-storey resort hotel for the filthy rich (“high-net-worth individuals”) metres away from 16 blocks of apartments of social housing, you’d think it’s a symptom of brain death. A brainless frenzy of concrete making. But nobody’s buying it.

The brainwave, I mean.

This is precisely the kind of mindless project that breaches our basic solar rights as common citizens, as mentioned in this newspaper’s editorial of May 10. When considering major development projects, the Planning Authority needs to take into consideration the solar access rights of a neighbourhood and specify conditions in the zoning ordinance, so that buildings are constructed far enough apart that they will be unlikely to shade neighbouring roofs.

In the case of db’s massive pseudo-development, whole apartment blocks will be buried alive.

The statement boldly claims that “just like the person behind this project”, the idea has “humble origins but an outstanding vision with immense potential”. Let’s deftly skip the “humble origins” bit. It’s normally inversely proportional to the zeal with which the destruction is meted out.

That leaves us with the “outstanding vision” that we’ve seen elsewhere in Malta. It’s the kind of vision that has for many years been steadily turning our island into a paragon of warped aesthetics, relentless traffic, insidious air pollution and the kind of unruliness and noise pollution that the Paceville side of Pembroke has already been experiencing for years.  

Someone’s trying to take us for a ride. But we’re not hopping on

We cannot deny the developer’s claim that there’s “immense potential” in this for someone. But definitely not for the vast majority of us in the permanent shade of this monstrous project.

The developer estimates that the shadow of its 37-floor tower will reach the reverse osmosis plant in December.

And yet, in its photomontages of the project, the brainless blocks never cast an inch of shadow. But the trees planted in db’s aestheticised tarmac do. It reminds me of Guy Debord’s prophetic “society of spectacle” and what he calls “the superficial reign of images”.

Someone’s trying to take us for a ride. But we’re not hopping on.

The “outstanding vision” is that of a five-star hotel (464 rooms), a shopping mall, a residential tower, two public plazas and a casino grafted onto a residential area.

The vision, we’re told, lies in “the interaction or synergy between these elements that is expected to provide the novelty in Silvio’s concept”.

The brainwave is that of “grouping together” a number of “high-class hospitality services and facilities”. Here’s where we get a bit of inspirational physics: this grouping “would lead to a strong gravitational pull of activity, which would then benefit both the project itself and surrounding establishments”.

The “surrounding” what?

The developers refuse to see the people living 40 storeys below its proposed buildings. They only sees establishments.

While the class bully imposes his law of permanent shade, noise, traffic and air pollution on the lesser beings around him, the “high-net-worth individuals” get what their real estate agents are selling, a “stunning new project situated directly on the waterfront” and a “totally unique development, enjoying breathtaking open sea views, together with views overlooking the majority of the Maltese islands”.

While thousands of commuters and residents of St Julian’s, Swieqi, Pembroke and beyond wallow in the permanent gridlock on St Andrew’s Road and children reach for their asthma puffers, the new, gated community enjoys the “picturesque” views and the “ample space with lavish large terraces ideal for entertaining”.

Sadly for db Group and its ‘brainchild’, we’re neither invisible nor silenced.

And we refuse to be buried alive.

Adrian Grima, a writer and academic, lives in Pembroke.

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