Joseph Portelli’s Jerma project: residential units up for sale with no permit, starting from €300,000

At least four resellers pitching ‘mixed-use development’ to early buyers

 

Residential units from a massive project fronted by Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli on the site of the abandoned Jerma hotel in Marsaskala are up for grabs despite no planning application having even been presented to the Planning Authority,

One agent among four identified is pre-selling residential units starting from €290,000 per unit.  The project will feature a 5-star hotel, self-catering apartments, retail and commercial spaces and a “massive pjazza”.

One of the agencies promoting the project, Direct Properties, was already previously identified by The Shift as selling plots in Qrendi for another of Portelli’s projects before permits were even approved.

The ad posted by Direct Properties.

At the Jerma site, a permit hasn’t even been filed, which hasn’t stopped the agents from promoting the “one-of-a-kind” development. Besides Direct Properties, the project is also being promoted by Marlene Axiaq, DTX Projects and EstatesDirect.

The ad posted by EstatesDirect.

 

The ad posted by DTX Projects.

When The Shift attempted to obtain more information from the agents on the price range and what was being offered in return, the agents said information was only being shared in face-to-face meetings.

While practically all of the resellers were using the same description, Axiaq’s advert showed residential units being sold at a starting price of €290,000.

The advert posted by Marlene Axiaq.

The site of the abandoned Jerma hotel, a popular spot for swimming and barbecues after the hotel closed its doors in 2007, was strictly for tourism development.

The previous site owners went through a decade of failed attempts to obtain approval to tear down the hotel and build a mixed-use complex. Following their failure to obtain approval, the government’s tune changed after Malta Today published an article in July 2019 saying Portelli was being touted as the frontman for an interested group of buyers.

Three months later, the government published a development brief that threw out the tourism-only clause that protected the site from residential development. The original version of the brief outlined a site amounting to 100,000sqm, with 40,000sqm to be used for residential development.

In August 2020, the development brief was toned down, reducing the overall site’s developable footprint from 100,000sqm to 65,000sqm and the land open for residential development from 40,000sqm to 26,000sqm.

According to the revised brief, buildings cannot exceed 32m above mean sea level and 9m above the St Thomas Tower.

While the development brief means that the site is now open to such development, it does not mean that the project has been formally approved by the Planning Authority (PA). A search on the PA’s Map Server shows that the last permit filed in 2018 was withdrawn by the previous owners of the site, Charles Camilleri and Pierre Lofaro of Porto Notos Ltd.

If and when Portelli and his associates seek permission for development, the PA will decide whether such a development is acceptable.

The track record of development applications filed by Portelli suggests that the project being marketed before it is even formally approved means the path may be set already, and the application process just another formality to create the illusion of consultation and due process.

In April 2021, The Shift published an investigation showing how flyers promoting a Portelli project at Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs in Gozo – 125 residential units split into three applications – were being used to sell flats before the permit for the block was issued.

The final application related to that project was approved by the PA despite significant opposition to the project, including objections filed by environmental NGOs.

The project, described as a “monstrosity”, was approved a week after Portelli organised a private dinner in Gozo to which Prime Minister Robert Abela was invited as guest of honour. The following day, the Labour Party held a fundraising telethon through which a record €215,000 was collected from Gozo.

More recently, Portelli’s highly controversial Mercury Towers project in the heart of Paceville was given a massive boost thanks to manoeuvres from Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, who declared it a Special Designated Area (SDA) through a new legal notice allowing foreigners to buy unlimited amounts of property at Mercury Towers while also benefiting from tax incentives.

                           
                               
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Out of Curiosity
Out of Curiosity
20 days ago

Who is the architect on this project? The Chairperson of BCA?

Makjavel
Makjavel
20 days ago

It is obvious that Portelli and friends have Robert Abela by the balls. This guy probably has bought Filfla and nobody knows.

Noel Ciantar
Noel Ciantar
19 days ago
Reply to  Makjavel

Bought it? Did you mean sold it with apartment blocks on it before a permit application?

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
20 days ago

Is it a question of selling ‘pie in the sky’ or of just waiting to be informed of the number of brown envelopes, and the amounts to be contained therein, required before anything moves ahead?

Noel Ciantar
Noel Ciantar
20 days ago

Chloe the Farmer’s father is going to have plenty of reasons to celebrate this 27 December – the feast of St. John the Evangelist.

John Doe
John Doe
19 days ago

No surprise there with Marlene Axiaq. She works in the Gozo office of Joseph Portelli JPProjects, located at the edge of Victoria. I wouldn’t be surprised if the others are simply fronts for JPProjects. Created by employees of JP.

Francis Said
Francis Said
19 days ago

Well it is clear that the project will go through the PA and rubber stamped.
What a farce of an Authority!!!
Another massive development or better a modern slum in the making.
What about the yacht marina in the bay? When will the eventual U Turn come about?

Aggie
Aggie
18 days ago

The Egyptians used to do this about 10 years ago. Advertising a development, taking a deposit for a unit, several times over, then disappear with funds and no property.
Any self respecting person would appoint a solicitor to undertake full due diligence before parting with funds, no planning permits would and should raise not only red flags but alarm bells.
Buyer beware !!

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