Few people have even heard of the Ludwipol neighborhood in south Tel Aviv. It is a small, forgotten triangular island of some three acres, squeezed between the Ayalon Highway, Road 1 and Road 461 by Kibbutz Galuyot Interchange. The neighborhood is named for Avraham Ludwipol, the first editor of the Polish Zionist newspaper Hatzofe.
About 20 families live there in small houses and gardens and there are dozens more who own land. The land has building rights for 60,000 square meters of offices, and perhaps it would even be possible to increase those building rights but the residents are in no rush to move ahead with any new construction. True there is the noise and pollution from the nearby traffic and no basic services but then they are living on a treasure.
In 1949, the first families left Tel Aviv's Kerem Hateimanim near the Carmel Market and moved out to Ludwipol, an agricultural settlements on the banks of the Ayalon stream. In contrast to nearby neighborhoods like Kiryat Shalem and Yad Eliyahu, the land was privately owned.
The rural atmosphere was threatened as the authorities drew up all sorts of future building plans. The big change came in 1978, with the completion of the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv Highway (Road 1), which ended adjacent to Ludwipol and the subsequent construction of the Ayalon Highway (Road 20) and the Kibbutz Galuyot Interchange, which connected the two highways. In he 1990s some of the buildings in Ludwipol were demolished to make way for the Heil Hashirion Bridge on the Ayalon Highway South to Holon trapping the neighborhood between three major highways.
In 2015, the residents promoted an urban building plan, designed by architect Hillel Schoken, for the construction of 57,000 square meters of office space. The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality insisted that the area was not appropriate for housing, in terms of the traffic, noise and pollution.
In October 2020, the residents and other landowners signed an option deal with developer Ronen Hatzor's Q Real Estate worth an estimated several hundred million shekels. The deal is only valid for a specific amount of time and subject to certain conditions.
Adv. David Shevach, from one of Ludwipol's founding families, and who still lives in the neighborhood, says that many of the landowners have been trying to realize their property rights for years. "My family owns 2,000 square meters in the middle of the neighborhood and we are the ones working hardest to bring real estate developers here. We brought the best of the best developers here and it was very difficult for them to cope with the neighborhood."
He added, "Many developers came to the area and then fled. Not because it wasn't a good deal - the land is at the gateway to Tel Aviv. The issue is that there are so many landowners here and some want to leave and some don't. some have had expropriation orders and some have had property impounded. Ronen Hatzor is a bulldozer and he has succeeded in reconciling groups that were initially hostile to each other. The deal is signed and mattrers are moving forward."
One Ludwipol resident Haim Cohen, who is signed on the urban building plan as one of the plan's developers, sees things differently. He claims that the residents are trapped there against their will. "We live here in squalid conditions. I sought a developer who would take this land and then I found a developer called Ronen Hatzor. I've been conducting talks with him for five years and we are simply stuck with him. Ultimately he doesn't have the money to take on this place and he is looking for investors and everything is stuck and we have no money to fight for it. I was in the municipality a number of times and I understand from them that nothing is happening."
Q Real Estate told "Globes" that progress in Ludwipol with negotiations with the many landowners is being frustrated by many difficulties. Completion of the urban building plan, which is dependent on all the landowners banding together, is still a serious challenge. Over 75% of the landowners must agree on the plan and most of them aren't even officially registered as owners. More than 100 people are involved, most of them second and third generation from the original owners. Some of them live abroad and just locating them is a complicated task. Another problem is evicting squatters that have taken over some of the privately and publicly owned land.
Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality said, "The adverse situation of the property owners and homeowners in the area is known to the municipality, which has been striving for years to promote a plan that would allow the dozens of families there to realize their rights and solve the issue. However, it must be remembered that this is private land on which there is an approved plan. The municipality does not have the ability to set a timescale for realizing construction or to intervene in a dispute with the developer and this issue is solely in the hands of the landowners. The municipality does concern itself with dealing with the public infrastructures, sidewalks, water and sewage."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 2, 2021
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