Plans to develop Jerusalem's Malha neighborhood into a major municipal and commercial center are encountering fierce opposition from local residents.
There are two parts to the new plan, which is currently being promoted by the Jerusalem Municipality. The first is to triple in size the Jerusalem Malha Mall, which was opened in 1993 and has been successfully operated by Azrieli Group Ltd. (TASE: AZRG). When the Second Intifada began in 2000, the more secure mall, replaced downtown Jerusalem as the city's main shopping center, although in recent years it has had to compete with the Mamilla Mall and the fast-expanding Talpiot commercial center.
The plan to expand the Malha Mall was drawn up by the architectural firm Kolker Kolker Epstein and approved for deposit in June 2019. The new mall will have three commercial floors, 260 stores, and 2,000 parking places encompassing 48,000 square meters. Also planned are 28-floors of sheltered housing for the elderly above the existing mall and two office buildings - 26-floors and 15 floors in the southwest and northeast of the site. 1,404 new parking spaces will be added to the existing mall. The new and existing commercial areas will have 168,600 square meters, three and a half times what currently exists.
The second part of the plan involves construction of a bridge over Road 50 (Begin Highway) to unite the two parts of Malha - the mall and office complex with Teddy soccer stadium and the Payis basketball arena. This plan for southwest Malha, which was also drawn up by the architectural firm Kolker Kolker Epstein was first presented in July 2018 to the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee and the residents of the Malha neighborhood. In addition to the bridge, in between the soccer stadium and basketball arena, a national sports square will be built to unite the facilities and the nearby tennis courts.
Residents of the nearby Malha neighborhood are up in arms about these plans which they describe as catastrophic. Amos Kollek, the son of the late Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, is a resident of Malka. He and his wife Osnat write in their objections. "We are furious about and object to this disproportionate plan that will finish off the quality of life for the residents of Malha. Mass events bring to us noise and air pollution from car exhaust and excessive use of the roads in our neighborhood, effecting the fabric of our lives and impose a major and unbridled burden on our neighborhood."
Malha residents committee chairman Dror Bakal said, "We are not opposed to the concept of the expansion of the mall and the masterplan but the plans have been presented to us at too late a stage. The masterplan creates chaos for the next generation and a professional opinion that we have received from experts about the traffic and environment makes us very concerned."
Jerusalem Municipality planning department head Ofer Gridinger said, 'In terms of employment space in the city, Jerusalem has a serious shortage with about four square meters per person while Tel Aviv has much more. We need to increase office and commercial space in the city and Malha is not the only place where we intend to create employment."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 30, 2019
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