Displaced Valletta shop owners reject alternative premises
Valletta shop owners that will be displaced as a result of the Valletta regeneration project at the end of the year have been offered alternative premises above City Gate, Business Today has learnt.
However, the retailers that will be affected as a result of the development when construction works are scheduled to start next year have shot down the proposals as “inadequate” in meetings with Lands’ Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi about the matter.
“He told us that the premises above City Gate are available, and that it would be upgraded,” Reggie Fava, the owner of a pharmacy in City Gate which has been operating for the past 41 years, told Business Today.
“Business people were not happy at all with those premises – they do not believe that it is adequate for their business,” Fava insisted.
Asked by Business Today whether the Government had offered an alternative to the premises above City Gate, Fava told this newspaper that none had been identified till now. “I think that government will now be contacting us again, since it is committed to offer an alternative”.
“From the feedback that we have, Valletta shop owners want alternative premises in Valletta, not compensation,” Fava said.
“However, finding suitable alternative premises in Valletta is not an easy task.
“It is true that the lease of most of the shops expires at the end of the year, but the government is not just another landowner,” he added.
Valletta shop owners have formed a single committee to tackle the problem of compensation to those Valletta shop owners who will be displaced by the Renzo Piano project, the problems caused by the lack of parking spaces, as well as accessibility to Valletta while the project is being developed.
Approached by this newspaper for a response on Fava’s claims, Parliamentary Secretary for land and revenue Jason Azzopardi said: “It would not be wise to divulge details regarding the matter as discussions are still under way”.
Fava speaks out
Asked whether he was hurt at the removal of his shop from City Gate, Fava told Business Today: “It’s not a question of being hurt. I have my business in Valletta and I would like to continue with my activity there”.
Fava recalled how Dr Azzopardi asked to meet him and said that was to occupy the shop “till the end of the year as the area has to be vacated by that time”.
“He also told us that the Government was ready to offer us compensation,” the pharmacy owner said. “I don’t know what the others told him, what I can tell you is what he told me.
“He also offered us alternative premises anywhere in Malta, but I told him that I already had alternative premises anywhere in Malta – I am only interested in having alternative premises in Valletta so that I would be able to offer the same service to the public that I am offering at present,” he insisted.
“I told him that I was a pioneer in Valletta. At the time when I opened the shop in City Gate, there was not even paving there,” Fava explained.
Moreover, he lamented that it would be “impossible to set up a new shop of the same standard I have right now in Valletta by the end of the year, even if he offered me alternative premises.
“I do not have an ordinary shop – it is a pharmacy, so I have to serve patients who may have problems. It is a particular service in the locality.”