The Haifa City Council has approved an urban renewal plan for the iconic Talpiot Market building in Haifa and the Syrkin site in the lower Hadar neighborhood in midtown Haifa. The new plan is an important step for urban renewal in the area, which was once Haifa's commercial center. The site has seen ups and downs over the years, and is currently the focus on interest among real estate investors and developers from all over Israel.
The lower Hadar neighborhood currently houses greengrocers, delicatessens, haberdasheries, and junk shops, as well as several fashionable restaurants and cafes. The area also features homeless people and extreme poverty. The buildings there have extraordinary architecture, but many of them are in a neglected state, and are even in danger of collapse.
During the British Mandate period and in the early years after independence, the Hadar Hacarmel neighborhood was the center of Haifa's commerce and business. The lower Hadar area, consisting of the streets below Herzl Street, was never in fashion; it was a half-ruined place of poverty. The industrial landscape of Haifa Port and the view of petrochemical industry in Haifa Bay was always considered ugly, and with the environmental consciousness that has grown in recent years, also hazardous.
The main building in lower Hadar is the Talpiot Market, built in 1940 and designed as an organized "European" alternative to the lower city's agricultural produce markets. An architectural competition conducted by the Hadar Hacarmel committee was won by Galician-born Moshe Gerstel. The international style of the building that he designed, which was adopted by Tel Aviv for its own, was simple and formative, but elegant. In the 1960s, management of the building passed to Haifa municipality. It has been neglected ever since, and has deteriorated to such an extent that only the ground floor is now open; the upper floors, which contained a transparent ceiling and a balcony overlooking the landscape, are closed to the public.
The Syrkin site plan, prepared by a team headed by architect Guido Segal and urban planner Tami Gavrieli, includes a site where 1,600 people live: a Jewish majority and Muslim and Christian minorities. The plan speaks of doubling the number of apartments, mostly by adding new floors and area to existing floors; preserving important buildings; encouraging commerce in the streets; upgrading public space and making it accessible; adding small gardens and services; and rebuilding the Talpiot Market building.
Gavrieli says that the thinking behind the plan is to begin reconstruction of the market building and the Syrkin area, from which it will spread to the rest of the Hadar neighborhood. "The Hadar commercial streets are the streets we dream of in every city. There are mixed uses, walkability, urban fabric with Bauhaus and Arab-style construction, and everything needed in order to make a lively city center. The location declined mainly because a huge number of shopping malls were opened. The Syrkin site is a small part of Hadar Hacarmel, but it plays a very special role because of the market. It's not just because of the building; it was the center of the city."
"Globes": What does your plan offer, and why do you think that something will change now?
Gavrieli: "The Haifa municipality is about to renovate the iconic Talpiot Market building under the direction of architect Guy Arbel. This project is budgeted. It's not just physical renovation; it's also the connection with the merchants within the building and with all of the merchants in streets around it, which is in effect an open market. The program for the building itself hasn't been decided yet, and the approach is flexible, with temporary uses. As I see it, this is the right way to enter such an area.
"Our plan talks about what can be done with the area around the market building. We prepared a construction policy document, which provides planning certainty to anyone wanting to promote a detailed plan or obtain a building permit. We set the extent of construction, the height, and the mixture of uses. This will help developers enter the area and operate in it. Our work stipulates all of the intervention that must be done in the public space. It was important to us to connect the area with its surroundings. Access to the market can easily be made into a friendly path. We're also talking about improving Syrkin Street itself, among other things by reducing traffic and widening the sidewalk. This is a street that has itself underwent renewal. All that has to be done is to push it forward."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 1, 2020
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