The Fortress Builders – a modern EU-funded interpretation centre in lower Valletta – left closed for over a year after a €1.7 million restoration, is set to reopen its doors this week following reports by The Shift.
This news portal is informed that the building, a major Valletta tourist attraction that had been left abandoned by the government for over a year despite millions of euro spent on its restoration, is to re-open its doors to visitors at least twice a week.
According to sources at Heritage Malta, tour operators applied pressure on the government following this news portal’s reports.
“While Heritage Malta officials were saying they had to close the facility because of a lack of funds, money was suddenly found, and dozens of cleaners were sent in this week to give the building a major clean-up with the aim of re-opening the tourist attraction as soon as possible,” one senior Heritage Malta official said.
Adding, “This episode shows it’s management by crisis at the agency. One manager doesn’t know what the other is doing.”
Fortress Builders, a restored 16th-century warehouse built by Grand Master Hugues de Verdale and located near Biagio Steps in St. Mark’s Street, hosts an interpretation centre inaugurated in 2013. Focused on Valletta’s iconic fortresses and bastions built by the Knights of St John, it was popular with the thousands of tourists who visit the capital city each year until it suddenly closed its doors last year without explanation.
The building’s restoration had cost some €1.7 million, with 85% co-financing from the EU.
Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, as well as Heritage Malta, ignored questions on why the popular attraction had been left closed for more than a year.
Headed by former Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar as chairman and the politically-appointed CEO Noel Zammit, Heritage Malta has been registering heavy losses. It has launched initiatives to generate money that have come under scrutiny.
Last summer, without a tender and in breach of public procurement rules, The Shift revealed that Mdina’s Palazzo Vilhena, which hosts the Natural History Museum, saw its courtyard become a temporary restaurant run by the owners of Rabat’s Grotto Tavern.
The restaurant was serving gourmet meals for €120 a head, but the agency had somehow deemed it appropriate to lease out its courtyard for fine dining experiences for just €50 a day.
Facing criticism, Minister Bonnici said this was an “experiment”.