Palazzo project paused as owners seek compromise on Villa Buleben

An application to turn a Palazzo in Żebbuġ into a hotel has been paused following a stream of objections, yet the owner has told The Shift he is open to new ideas on how to restore and sustain the property that dates back to the 18th century.

The developers have made changes to the proposed development, acknowledging the objections. And one of the owners, Neville Agius, insisted the point of the development was to restore the property to its former glory.

The massive Palazzo, better known in Żebbuġ as ‘il-Palazz tal-Baruni’ (the Baron’s palace), was the original home of Baron Gaetano Azzopardi, a medical professional who worked in the infirmary of the Order of St John.

Until a few years ago, it was owned by Alfred and Joseph Manduca, who had applied to build flats and apartments on parts of the grounds of the historic villa. The development did not go forward.

Then the Palazzo was bought by Buleben Estates Ltd, with Neville Agius, Andre Farrugia and Reuben Magro as shareholders.

In 2020 an application was filed to turn the Palazzo into a fully-fledged 50-room hotel, including a large lateral extension and an underground car park.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority were among the objectors, particularly due to the extensive excavations suggested.

The developers scaled down their project, reduced the number of hotel rooms and suggested building 13 separate rooms, cabanas style, in the Palazzo’s gardens.

Proposed cabanas in the Palazzo’s gardens

Despite the changes, the application still faces objections, particularly focused on the cabanas not complementing the surroundings. However, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority are now open to the development.

The application submitted to the Planning Authority is being fronted by Daniel Bonnici, but he is only an employee of the company and not the real owner of the property.

The Shift contacted one of the owners, Neville Agius. He insisted that all those involved in the project are not necessarily determined to transform the Palazzo into a large commercial activity, such as a hotel. Yet the property needs investment for its restoration.

Design of proposed project when completed

Agius acknowledged the objections to the proposed development. “Let me make it clear that we are not obsessed with developing the Palazzo into a hotel or anything else. We are interested in saving this privately-owned magnificent property from further decay, restoring it to its former glory and making the best use of it in the current circumstances.”

He added that he was open to ideas. “We are only interested in making the best use of this property we own. We are open to suggestions. If anyone comes up with something that makes the Palazzo’s running viable at the same time as giving it its previous prestige, then let’s go for it.”

The proposed development so far remains on hold, and the developers are expected to make further changes.  The architect for the project is Edwin Mintoff.


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Pat Daly
Pat Daly
1 month ago

Why not turn it into a health farm.

Kate Bonello Sullivan
Kate Bonello Sullivan
1 month ago

Not another hotel for goodness sake. What about something of use to the Maltese community like a residential care home?

simon oosterman
simon oosterman
1 month ago

Would something along the lines of Palazzo Parisio be doable?

Pat Agius
Pat Agius
1 month ago

Why doesn’t the government buy it at the market value, and convert the open spaces into a public garden for all to enjoy?

Carmela Azzopardi
Carmela Azzopardi
1 month ago

It would be very nice to restore the whole place, it is such a shame to see it going down to ruin. A small Boutique Hotel would be nice as long as it combines with its architecture with a nice deluxe area for receptions. A couple of exquisite restaurants and Tea Rooms will compliment the project leaving it as much as possible with its natural ambient.
I know the area very well, I lived very close there with my parents. As far as I know the little chapel opposite is part of the Palazzo. How wonderful to be able to have Weddings Functions there. I am not so sure about the parking, although if it is structurrly possible it could have the entrance from the back street.
As long as the building is not high, I think it would be wonderful to have this project. The place has been neglected for a very long time and it is about time for something to be done.
With my suggestions everybody wins.
1) the investors will make it profitable
2) it will be restored to its full glory
3) and it still can be enjoyed by the public.

Last edited 1 month ago by Carmela Azzopardi
1 month ago

What about a petrol station flats and of course the inevitable burger bar and supermarket

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