July 10, 2018
Interest in property development in Gibraltar’s Old Town continues its steady increase, with plans for two projects announced just last week.
The first of these is for a 13-storey mixed-use development in Engineer Lane by developers Phoenix Capital Ltd, consisting of car parking, office space, a gym and nine levels of residential apartments.
With a view to investing in property in the Main Street and Gibraltar’s Old Town as part of a growing revival of this area, the developer has affirmed that the scheme will focus on affordability. This will be achieved by creating a mix of apartment sizes, with around half of the apartments set to be studio or one bedroom units aimed at helping younger buyers get onto the housing ladder. The remainder of the residential units will be aimed at families, with a selection of two, three and four bedroom apartments.
Additional features of the proposed building, and also a contribution to modernising the built environment in the Old Town and increasing the supply of homes in Gibraltar, are environmentally friendly elements. These will see the creation of an extensive green roof, with plants and substrate that, in the words of the architects, WSRM, “provides an improved ecosystem to urban areas”. This roof-based ecosystem will also provide improved storm water management, a reduction in heat gains and heat losses, reduce ambient noise pollution and improve air quality – both these latter important considerations of city living.
The second Old Town project is that of a 7-storey block of 58 apartments to be built on the site of the Rialto Cinema in Turnbull’s Lane. This development will demolish the old cinema building but will retain the existing heritage façade; demolition is considered essential, as there are doubts over the integrity of the existing structure. At the moment the building is tenanted as residential accommodation and in the submission, the developer, Gilman Holdings Ltd, states the view that the current occupants will be re-housed in the new development.
The plans point out that the building will enjoy an increase in natural light as a result of its “U” shaped design set around a central courtyard. The ground floor will have communal facilities, storage units, a gymnasium and a laundry, and the plans provide for there to be a variety of apartment sizes ranging from studio to three bedroom properties. Concerns about the property’s height will be mitigated by the stepped nature of the design, with the upper floors set back away from the street frontage.
Although both sets of plans are yet to be discussed by the Development and Planning Commission, and, there are heritage as well as traffic and parking implications, both developers are hopeful that their bids to breathe new life into town centre properties will succeed. In terms of Gibraltar’s overall ability to supply a variety of properties to a buoyant and growing property market, this continuing interest in the Old Town, if carefully balanced with heritage and environmental issues, is likely to bring all round benefit, not least in terms of the local economy and the supply of housing.