Jerusalem has big plans for Talpiot

Talpiot as planned Photo: Eden

Eden the Jerusalem Development Company plans transforming the crumbling buildings of the Talpiot industrial zone into gleaming office towers.

Eden The Jerusalem Development Company is currently promoting a plan to turn the Talpiot industrial zone into a new municipal center providing services to residents of the entire city and the surrounding area. The plan includes connecting the industrial zone to a network of roads, residential and commercial construction, and increasing construction rights in the area.

The Talpiot industrial zone was established in the 1960s at the southern tip of Jerusalem when it was still a divided city on what was then the border with Jordan. Despite the fact that the city has greatly expanded since 1967, the area has lagged behind and continues to be like a border area with garages, workshops, and factories. A number of standard residential buildings were constructed on the very outskirts of the area. In the late 1970s, commercial businesses also began operating there; for example, Rami Levy Chain Stores Hashikma Marketing 2006 Ltd. (TASE:RMLI) began there.

Over the years, entertainment spots and an art scene also developed there, including HaOman 17, the Yellow Submarine Club, the School of Visual Theater, and the Sam Spiegel School of Film & Television.

A recent survey by Eden The Jerusalem Development Company found that 77% of Jerusalem's residents visit the Talpiot industrial zone at least once a month and 44% every week. The area's importance apparently results from the city's rapid growth, which turned an industrial zone on the edge of the city into a type of center.

Most of the buildings in the area, however, are old industrial buildings. The streets are in a bad state or repair and are unfriendly to pedestrians. There is a lack of open public spaces, squares, and cafes. At night, the area is deserted.

The master plan for Talpiot, prepared by Jerusalem architect Jacob Molho and approved by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Commission in 2013, refers to the 1,200-dunam (300-acre) area bordered by Rivka Street and Oranim Junction on the north, Moshe Baram Road on the south, Hevron Road on the east and the route of the old Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway on the west. The plan also includes the industrial area of the Makor Haim neighborhood and the neighborhoods on the border of the Baka neighborhood near Hevron Road.

The strategy of the master plan is to create a hierarchal network of roads connecting the area, which is semi-closed, to the main road network, while rezoning the land and assigning construction rights according to sub-areas. In general, the plan increases construction rights for commerce and business by 1.6 million square meters and allows construction of 3,455 residential housing units on the outskirts of the industrial zone.

The main traffic artery in the plan for the Talpiot industrial zone is General Pierre Koenig Street, which begins at Oranim Junction and ends at the traffic circle at Jewish Underground in France Square. According to the proposed plan, the buildings on the southern side of the traffic circle, including the Dynamometer building, will be demolished. The road will be continued and connected to Moshe Baram Road, which connects the area to the roads leading to the entrances to the city. The Green Line of the Jerusalem light railway connecting the Gilo neighborhood to the Givat Shapira (French Hill) neighborhood is planned to run along the street, but will start operating in 2024 at the earliest.

The plan grants 500% in construction rights on General Pierre Koenig Street, compared with 224% in the existing plan, meaning that the low buildings currently on the street will be replaced by 20-storey buildings having commercial ground floors open to the street, underground parking lots, and business space on the upper floors.

Eden The Jerusalem Development Company CEO Alon Shpeizer says that Jerusalem currently has a shortage of office space. "As of now, Jerusalem has no available offices. I've been looking for offices for Eden The Jerusalem Development Company in central Jerusalem for six months, and there are none. There are sometimes apartments that have been provisionally adapted, but there are no modern offices. If you do find something, the prices are NIS 130 per square meter, like in Tel Aviv," he says.

"Har Hahotzvim is full. The question is obviously who will occupy new offices, but it's a question of whether the chicken or the egg comes first. Even if you want to come, there's nowhere to go. The current volume of real estate in Jerusalem for business purposes is 4.5 square meters per resident. According to what they're saying in the 15th forum, it should be around 12 square meters. In the end, business provides the bulk of the municipality's revenue," Shpeizer says.

Guy Shaked, who is responsible for Talpiot in Eden The Jerusalem Development Company, says that the company's point of departure for the project is that improvement of public space and a change in image or rebranding of the area will motivate developers and landowners to promote new construction plans and projects in the city. An important point is that almost all of the land in the Talpiot industrial zone is privately owned, so it is much more difficult to catalyze development there.

The project managers describe the renewal dynamic that the company is leading as a closed economy. "Promoting private development is what is driving our entire work model. We need the fees and charges from the private developers in order to develop the public space. We have an agreement incorporating all of the fees and charges into a special fund for developing the area," Shaked says.

Shpeizer adds, "General Pierre Koenig Street is an economic road. The urban building plan took the road, gave the owners of lots additional construction rights, and essentially created a catalyst mechanism. If a lot owner wants to utilize his 500% construction rights, he has to give us part of the lot for widening the road. I'm going to get a large business area paying municipal property tax and fees that will pay for itself. The developers will also profit."

Decoration committee: It's important to us to create a cultural scene

Eden The Jerusalem Development Company is trying to reinforce the Talpiot industrial zone's creative image by decorating public space and holding occasional cultural events. Shaked explains, "It's important to us to create a cultural scene in the area. There's something special in Talpiot. Our message is that we want to keep the artists in the area. A lot of places have construction rights. Here there are creative artists and startups. We want to use this to promote an attractive image for the place in order to bring investors here. The opening event of the Israel Festival took place here this year, and a wall painting festival we initiative also took place recently."

On a tour of the area with Eden The Jerusalem Development Company, what it calls "place marketing activity" and decoration of the area on which they have been working in recent years was noticeable.

They may be able to see the vision of the new center materializing in front of their eyes, but a stranger strolling through a hot summer's day on one of the main streets in the Talpiot industrial area will not have an especially pleasant experience. The buildings are ugly and alien to the street, with sealed off facades. There is neither shade nor benches. The sidewalks are narrow, with a lot of unused space and parking lots.

The decorations, or "urban interventions," as they boastfully call them, which are spread hither and thither at no charge, show good intentions. It is impossible to avoid wondering, however, whether a wall painting by a Mexican artist on a wooden deck planned by a landscape architect from Givatayim and a seating area inside a shipping container painted yellow and designed by a graduate of the Bezalel Jerusalem Academy of Arts and Design is really an indication of local vitality. Is this what makes an "in" place? Are these the elements needed to attract developers and make "cool" real estate for the municipality? It's anyone's guess.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 30, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Talpiot as planned Photo: Eden
Talpiot as planned Photo: Eden
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