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VISET PROJECT - CRUISE LINER TERMINAL: Regenerating our Citta’ Nuova

Viset will inaugurate the first phase of its project, that of the Valletta Waterfront which will start receiving both foreign visitors and Maltese alike to the first proactive waterfront of Valletta and Floriana.

Running up to the first phase due for completion, VISET has restored impeccably the facades commonly known as Pinto Stores, gave a new life to part of the original quay built during the Knights of St. John and created an inlet sea which will become a focal point of activity in the area, as well as offering a buffer zone to the multi-storey passenger cruise liners sailing in and berthing in the Valletta Grand Harbour.

The Valletta Waterfront Project is proving itself to be a major project of Regeneration, both for our Grand Harbour and our City.

There is no doubt that when our Port was active, the City was active. Well before travelling by air and car reached the pockets of the masses, the Sea was the major link for Valletta . It was only then that the socio-economic dimension of Valletta flourished straight from the Eighteenth Century to the Mid-Twentieth Century, generating wealth to the people.

In the late Nineteenth Century Valletta and Malta became part of the Grand Tour of Europe, with the Valletta Waterfront receiving some of the most distinguished personalities of all centuries. Holiday making and tourism in Valletta had a good start.

Emperors, Heads of State, Cardinals and Bishops, amongst many other dignitaries, have set foot on the shores of Valletta . These were all important to Malta ’s geo-political development through the centuries.

However, one cannot forget the vast list of authors, painters, poets and other personalities who sailed in Valletta ’s Grand Harbour mooring to the Valletta Waterfronts and logging their unforgettable memories of Valletta in written or painted form. Han Christian Andersen, Edward Lear, Teophile Gautier, Sir Walter Scott, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alexander Dumas, and Lord Byron are just a few who walked along the Valletta Waterfront up to the heart of the City.

What attracted these people and many more was the Baroque Continental beauty of Valletta in the heart of what was then considered as an exotic and still undiscovered Mediterranean Region.

Ever since its foundation nearly four and a half centuries ago, Valletta was guided by one major principle; that of being a vibrant Citta’ Nuova, intended to be a perpetually contemporaneous. This commitment is evidenced by the Knights of St. John who transformed the New City originally built as a fortified Military City into a Cultural and Maritime Micro Superpower City .

Then, innovation and vision were the secret of Valletta ’s success. The Knights were capable of seeing change and adapting themselves accordingly. The Pinto Stores are only one example. Transforming the shoreline and building a modern transhipment port area outside the city walls to spearhead maritime activity in the Mediterranean and the South of Europe was a challenge and reachable target.

Notwithstanding their strict planning rules, the Knights overcame rigid formalities with practicality - building on design, style, beauty, functionality and profitability.

Valletta retained its character as a city alive and contemporaneous during the twenty-three decades of administration by the Knights. Perhaps, by today’s standards and rigid formalities, when the stores where proposed for development, it is not certain if a planning permit would be approved for the Magazzini Pinto due to their setting in front of the Fortifications, less then ten metres from the shoreline. Notwithstanding, the Knights conceived and developed the idea bringing it to fruition.

This leads to the current debate on the cable car project proposed by the Viset Consortium, connecting the Pinto Sea Port to Valletta . There is no doubt that this project runs on the same principles adhered to by the Knights of St. John - that of having the vision of making Valletta a contemporary City - a Citta` Nuova - through vision and innovation.

With some modifications to the original plans to respect the surroundings, it is more than certain that the Knights would have endorsed the cable car project and would work hard to have it delivered in time to improve accessibility in to and out of their City.

Like many projects undertaken by the Knights, the Cable Car Proposal is innovative, provocative, and functional, considering the serious mobility issues pertaining to Valletta .

Access to Valletta from the Pinto Waterfront today takes a minimum of twenty minutes to reach the first stop in Valletta . With some 300,000 passengers reaching the Valletta Waterfront every year, the Cable Car Project would be an impressive boost to the socio-economic development of the Citta` Nuova.

Saving fifteen minutes on either trip to and from Valletta , the City and its people can enjoy an additional thirty minutes of shopping and leisure from every tourist who currently spends an average of four to five hours in Valletta . This means that Malta ’s Capital can benefit from an additional 150,000 hours per year of tourism from the Cruise Liner industry alone. Logically, staying more in the city means spending more in Valletta , and increasing the hourly stay in Valletta , is equal to an increase in tourism.

The Cable Car project, coupled with this simple equation of a longer stay in Valletta , leads to a potential direct increase of tourist activity in the City by 10% per annum or an equivalent increase of 30,000 tourists. There is no doubt that a boost of 10% tourist activity in Valletta per year may improve the socio-economic development of Valletta, increasing business activity and direct employment for our younger unemployed residents, echoing the success of the past.

With all this in mind, however, the design element to the cable car proposal is also of crucial importance and must not be taken for granted. It may be true that during the Knights functionality and profitability lead to socio-economic development, but this was necessarily coupled with elegance in design and style. Then, Profitability paid for Style.

Objectively, the first proposals of the cable car project may not be fully in keeping with the surroundings of Valletta , causing some visual intrusions. However, with some modifications to the original plans, the project can be easily integrated in the cultural fabric of Valletta ’s heritage, leading it to live up to its name of a Citta’ Nuova, perpetually contemporaneous, as the Knights wished it to be, based on innovation and vision.

The Valletta Waterfront Project, possibly with a modified Cable Car Project, is a welcoming asset to the Regeneration of Valletta.
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