The CareMalta Group has signed a 65-year lease agreement with La Stella Philharmonic Society for a property in Victoria to be developed into a 60-bed facility in the heart of the community.

This is an important milestone for the group, which will be extending its services to Gozo for the first time.

Formerly known as the Astra Discotheque in its heyday, the property, built in the shape of a tower, is located at the foot of the Citadel, just behind the Astra Theatre. Inaugurated by Gozo Minister Anton Tabone in 1989, this top entertainment venue changed its name along the years, first to Planet Discotheque and later to KU Club, closing its doors in 2019.

In a short address during a symbolic ceremony held at the Citadel on June 5, Nazzareno Vassallo, chairman of the Vassallo Group, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, said: “Our group had been looking closely at Gozo for some time. When this offer came up, we immediately visited the site and, after a thorough assessment of the proposed changes and extension required to change the building, we decided to go for it.

“Our vision for Gozo has always been that of looking for a location in the vibrant heart of the community, where our specialised services are easily accessible and with all amenities just a mere stone’s throw away. The site, located right beneath the spectacular Ċittadella, is just the perfect place – away from chaos yet right at the hub.

“While hoping to transform this unused site into a facility that will serve the community in the years to come, I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship and to bringing this important project to fruition.”

Natalie Briffa Farrugia, CEO of the CareMalta Group, said the company had come a long way since 1993, growing from strength to strength over the years, increasing its presence and diversifying its services.

“We have also commissioned a study, in collaboration with the University of Malta, in order to establish and better understand present and future social needs in Gozo.”

Prof. Andrew Azzopardi, dean of the Faculty for Social Well-being at the University, who will lead the study, praised the direction the group was taking towards understanding communities, saying that it was a step in the right direction and augured well. “It is only through the collection of evidence-based data that we will be in a position to serve our communities well.”

La Stella Philharmonic Society and Astra Theatre president Michael Formosa expressed satisfaction at reaching a deal with a reputable group such as CareMalta, especially at a time when the club and theatre were renewing themselves.

“Through this arrangement, the property will be reinvented to offer a valuable service to the wider community. This is a significant development in the club’s history, as its assets will be deployed in a manner that is more consistent with its ethos,” he said.

Also present for the launch were Pio Vassallo, CEO of the Vassallo Group, James Sciriha, the CareMalta Group’s director of finance, Ruben Vassallo, director of HILA, Janet Silvio, executive director of HILA, members of the Vassallo family, as well as senior management teams.

Permission to hold the ceremony at the Citadel was kindly given by the Cultural Heritage Directorate within the Ministry for Gozo.