Holyland project to double in size


Construction on the Jerusalem hilltop land, halted by a corruption affair a decade ago, is slated to resume soon.

Holyland Park, which built the enormous controversial Jerusalem housing project that bears its name, will submit a request for a building permit in the coming weeks for adding four structures to the project, sources inform "Globes." One of the buildings is a tower of the same size as the current tower on the site.

The plan to expand the project, which was validated in late 2017, includes seven new buildings: four by Holyland Park and three on land owned by Rami Levy and Dan Bus Company. The new buildings will be constructed next to the existing buildings on the site known to every household in Israel because of their prominence in the capital and the corruption affair linked to the project. When completed, the new construction will double the number of apartments on the site.

Graft affair halted construction

Promotion of the plan to build a large residential project on the land gathered momentum in the mid-1990s. The project subsequently built was known because its connected buildings were on a hill visible from many parts of Jerusalem. It consists of eight buildings - a tower and seven other buildings - with a total of 650 apartments. The project was constructed by Holyland Park, owned by Kardan Real Estate (60%), Polar Real Estate (30%), and Bank Leumi (10%). Kardan bought Bank Leumi's share of Holyland Park last year. After this part of the project was completed, the company owned four lots zoned for construction of four additional buildings with 258 apartments in the western section of the site. Three more buildings can be constructed on the adjacent lots, owned by Rami Levy. Construction of the second part of the Holyland project was never completed, however, because of the corruption affair revealed in 2010.

Because of the scandal, the District Planning and Building Commission promoted a new plan for the site that canceled all of the unused construction rights approved in a legal and normal proceeding. Holyland Park, which bought the land in 1999 from the owners, the Cherney family in Jerusalem, in a combination deal, had not yet utilized all of the construction rights in the land, and construction was suspended.

The Cherney family, headed by Hillel Cherney, also had to wait for completion of the deal until the present time. Hillel Cherney was arrested and indicted as part of the affair. Cherney, who is now profiting from the unfreezing of the second part of the project, is breaking his silence after serving a 15-month prison term. "Our 'crime' was that we were the first to build a high-rise in Jerusalem, and the project was ahead of its time. It is a fact that the Holyland Tower is no longer the tallest tower in the city. Had the project been built today, no one would have raised an eyebrow," he told "Globes." The most prominent person involved in the affair was former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was jailed for 18 months for his part in it when he was mayor of Jerusalem.

Holyland Park filed an objection to the plan, arguing that the District Planning and Building Commission had canceled construction legally approved by the Commission itself and the National Council, while the basis for the purchase of the land was reliance on the approved construction rights. Underlying the affair was a threat by the company to file a huge lawsuit against the planning commissions for damage caused by cancellation of its construction rights.

After the criminal proceedings in the affair ended and the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the project, the District Planning and Building Commission reversed itself in 2017 and restored the canceled rights, while assigning one of Holyland Park's four lots for public use, without derogating from the original approved construction rights.

Holyland Park has since been negotiating with the District Planning and Building Commission on the final architectural plan. Information now obtained by "Globes" shows that this process was recently completed, and the company is now preparing to submit requests for construction permits. The plan will get under way in the near future after almost a decade of delay. The construction permit requested by the company includes three buildings, plus a residential tower, with a total of 258 apartments. The request is likely to be approved soon, with actual construction beginning before the end of the year.

How much money is involved? According to advertisements on the Yad2 website offering apartments in the existing Holyland projects, prices are in the NIS 21,000-26,000 per square meter range for 4-5-room apartments and NIS 30,000-35,000 per square meter for 2.5-3-room apartments. For example, a four-room, 120-square meter apartment on the eighth floor is being offered for sale at NIS 2.65 million and a three-room and 60-square meter apartment on the 20th floor is being offered for sale for NIS 2.1 million. Holyland Park says that apartment prices in the new project will be NIS 28,000 per square meter.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 2, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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