After decades of delays, the plan to build three 40-floor residential high-rises in Tel Aviv's landmark Kikar Medina has finally been approved. The three towers will contain 453 apartments on land owned by dozens of people as well as the municipality, who will receive 6,000-sq.m. of building and several small stores in the surrounding parkland.
"You have to understand how special this project is for Tel Aviv, which will include a 10-acre park," said architect Ami Mor from MYS Architects, which has been responsible for the project. "For all our efforts in the Tel Aviv Wholesale market project, for example, we obtained a park of just 2.25 acres. Here we are talking about 10 acres. It will be the largest park in any Tel Aviv neighborhood and it will be a pearl."
Globes: Akirov Towers also has a park open to the public but people don't really go there.
Mor said, "That is something completely different. In Akirov the land was higher and a separation of levels was created. With Kikar Medina, there will be no fences and the entire project will be at street level, accessible from every direction. The most important thing from Tel Aviv Municipality's point of view was that the park will be accessible to the public, and the previous city engineer Herzi Berkovitz was insistent about this and he also initiated the cancellation of a planned commercial project that would have blocked views across the park. The current plan has smaller towers that are further apart so that the view is not concealed. Half of the square will in fact be parkland with places to sit and a number of very small stores operated by the municipality. In my opinion it will be the city's most attractive park."
What happens now that the plan has been approved? Will the owners be seeking a deal with a developer?
"All options are open. We'll begin with applying for a permit for the foundation works and then put out a tender for the entire construction in one go. There won't be any complicated deals with contractors that will market the apartments, so there won't be any apartments for sale except for those who want to sell apartments by themselves. We're talking about people who have been waiting for over 50 years to build and want to live in the apartments. Therefore the project will be built in one go."
Will it be yet another project for the rich in Tel Aviv?
"Not all of them are rich. There are people that bought in the 1940s when the land was not expensive and even paid purchase tax and after all that waiting the project is is going ahead for the owners. There are wealthy people and ordinary people and those that inherited the land. It's the people of Israel. The owners have a committee that has been very active for years and has been promoting the project and the decisions taken by it have been for the good of the project and not the best for their pocket. The building has a twisting design and that makes it more expensive. These are things that a development company would not necessarily do if they are not sure if they can profit from it.'
Over the past year many of the stores in the square have closed or left, do you think that the square will be rejuvenated?
"I've no doubt that the project will again make the square shine. The park will create an attraction that will draw the public to the place and there will also be an underground car park. This will bring back a heart to old north Tel Aviv, something which is lacking today. It's true there was open land but it was not in use and for years the square was not tended - full of mud in the winter and with no shade in the summer, and no character or anything for people to do. Now there has been thought put into every corner from benches to a bird sanctuary."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 23, 2015
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