Plans for old Queen’s Cinema site envisage ‘Casemates of the south’

Plans have been filed for a major mixed-used development on the site of the former Queen’s Cinema and its adjacent hotel, in a project described as 'a Casemates for the south'.

The project at 1-3 Boyd Street and 3 Rosia Road, to be called Queen’s Gate Precinct, envisages new leisure and commercial facilities as part of a project that includes two tall towers standing 13 storeys above podium, for residential and hotel units.

The developer, QCD Limited, is seeking permission for a mixed-use development comprising of a hotel, retail streetscape and green urban plaza, residential with car parking that also includes senior living accommodation, a dance hall facility for use by the Ministry of Culture, office and commercial spaces and the widening of the footpath.

“The new development, to be known as Queen's Gate Precinct, proposes to reverse the lack of investment in the area since the closure of the cinema and hotel attractions and to comprehensively re-instate a new 'sense of neighbourhood',” said the planning statement prepared by Gamma Architects.

“Our ambition is to create a landmark asset for both Gibraltar residents and visitors alike, regenerating a pivotal site overlooking Grand Parade and creating a gateway at the southern point of Town.”

“The proposed design approach incorporates extensive greenery to enhance the built environment, both at street level and vertically, through a series of green roofs, podiums, vertical planters and strategically placed street planters.”

The development will have two components, 'Queen's Retail Precinct' within its lower streetscape, podium section and 'Elizabeth Residences, Buildings 1 and 2', within its upper parts.

'Queen's Retail Precinct' will provide almost 170 linear metres of 'new green retail streetscape' and will include 'Queen's Green Plaza'.

The developer told the Chronicle their aim was to invest in the area and deliver a modern integrated hub for retail, hospitality, commercial and residential use.

It said investment in Gibraltar has for nearly three decades been focused on the northern part of the city.

“'Queen's Gate Precinct' will complement and reinforce the City Centre experience going forward, becoming its gateway, from the south.,” the developer said.

“In essence 'Queen's Gate Precinct' will have all the credentials to become the Casemates of the south.”

The vision from the developer and the architects is to have new restaurants that aim to “set new standards for cuisine locally, enhancing our rich local gastronomy and bringing our culinary art to the next level.”

These restaurants, together with retail spaces, will be on the on the ground and lower ground floor of the building and can be accessed either via Boyd Street or Rosia Road

There are also plans for rooftop pool and a hospitality space that “will offer a unique and personalised hospitality experience, combining luxury and comfort.”

In describing the building, the planning statement notes that the structure is set back to create a central plaza that showcases the distinct arches in order to promote a courtyard appeal.

“The addition of new retail space in Gibraltar can bring numerous advantages to the city,” the planning statement said.

“It expands shopping options, stimulates economic growth, attracts tourists, revitalises urban areas, fosters community engagement, and leads to infrastructure improvements. “

“At the moment this end of Main Street seems to feather out of tourists and locals. It is envisaged that the development will provide an apt bookend to remedy this effect."

Some of the shops or commercial tenancies being considered include a major branded supermarket, a pharmacy, a café, beauty and hair salon, bakery, pre-school nursery, a food court and spa.

On the hospitality space, the planning statement said each room is “generously sized, creating a spacious and inviting ambiance.”

“Each unit will offer a unique and charming atmosphere with access to balconies overlooking the Rock of Gibraltar or Mediterranean Sea, whilst located in the heart of Gibraltar.”

The residential units will “feature sleek and modern architectural designs with clean lines, large windows, and open floor plans.” Each unit is designed with balconies that provide similar views to that of the hotel balconies.

“'Elizabeth Buildings 1 and 2', will offer a combination of Senior Living Suites and larger family sized units and where a broad cross section of residential end users is planned,” the developer said.

Its location will also reflect its past with a dance hall, “installed, to capture the location's rich military and entertainment history under the Assembly Rooms, Hotel and Cinema uses, dating back to circa 1900.”

“The development at every turn recognises its connection with our late Queen Elizabeth 2 and reinforces this by specifically naming the various new facilities and attractions by a direct reference to her, as commemoration to her successful reign,” the developer added.

On the rooftop facilities, the statement said the main goal was “to create an oasis that offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.” The area will feature an infinity pool that blends into the horizon.

“The rooftop pool design offers a unique and organic aesthetic, blending seamlessly with an abundance of greenery.”

“It is reminiscent of a natural lagoon, rather than a traditional rectangular pool, which creates a sense of harmony with the surrounding views.”

“The greenery creates a peaceful and serene ambiance.”

In addition to the infinity pool there will be a children's pool, jacuzzi, lounge area, circular decking zones, garden walk, and stream.

On access and transport, the developer said they had fulfilled all requirements for residential parking but are suggesting an alternative approach for the other uses for the hotel and commercial spaces “in order to fulfil sustainability aspirations.”

“We have considered that there is a large and underused public car park in close vicinity. Additionally the site is also highly accessible via public transport with nearby bus stops increasing connectivity in a more sustainable way,” said the statement.

“We have also considered our design aspiration to make a pedestrian and cycle-friendly environment. It is envisaged that this should be reviewed holistically with planners.”

“Public footpaths bounding the site will be significantly increased in width.”

On sustainability and environmental aspects, the planning statement notes that the design of the building incorporates two central cores, maximising natural light and providing large balconies for shading. External areas, including gardens and greenery, offer wind buffers and improved wellbeing.

The Development, via its 'green' retail streetscape and vertical gardens', will also reinforce the leisure and recreational amenity of the area forging a link with Alameda Gardens and the natural landscape of the Rock on its eastern side, said the developer.

“The area will include a soft tree lined avenue along Boyd Street, with free-standing and integrated planters to create pockets of shaded areas, ample public seating and generally treated in line with the surrounding lush Nelson and Trafalgar Interchange landscaped areas.”

The building meets guidelines for energy efficiency. Rooftop pools and gardens aid in natural cooling and thermal regulation. Energy-saving features include LED lighting, heat pumps, photovoltaics, solar panels, and EV charging infrastructure.

Natural cross ventilation is encouraged, reducing the need for mechanical equipment. High-efficiency heat-pump air-conditioning with smart controls further enhances energy efficiency.

The building is also said to feature energy-efficient lifts with regeneration drive technology. It offers ample bicycle parking and electric vehicle charging points, supported by an emergency generator.

Water usage includes sea water for preliminary cleaning and rainwater and greywater harvesting for irrigation. Locally sourced construction materials are used to reduce the carbon footprint. Waste provisions are designed in compliance with regulations.

The design aims to prioritise health and well-being with thermal comfort, natural lighting, ventilation, and noise reduction. And bat and swift nests encourage local wildlife.

On levels minus two, minus one and zero basement there will be a total of 156 parking spaces, 52 on each level.

On level minus one there will be one large retail space, on level zero there will be nine retail units and on level one space for two retail units.

Level two and mezzanine is for hospitality in the form of some hotel or accommodation.

On level zero to 11 of the residential units there will be three apartments with two bedrooms, four with three bedrooms and three with four bedrooms. All apartments will have balconies.

The penthouse apartments are located on level 12, with ten apartments across the two towers.

The plans have yet to be considered by the Development and Planning Commission.