The Israeli government has given the green light to a 731,000-sq-meter commercial development complex, one of the largest projects to be undertaken in the country's history.
Located on 52 acres at Jerusalem's western entrance, the development will include nine high-rise buildings of more than 30 stories—the highest ever built in the city—as well as a number of smaller structures.
The "multibillion-dollar" cost has not been detailed.
Plans include the construction of 2,000 hotel rooms and the expansion of the city’s International Convention Center and the nearby Central Zionist Archives building.
Government approval of the project followed an agreement between the country's finance ministry and the city of Jerusalem on $400 million in government funding for transportation infrastructure, including the terminus of a high-speed-rail line from Tel Aviv, a new central bus station and a planned second light-rail line, which would run through the district. The high-speed train is due to begin operating in 2018.
“The first tenders for developers are expected to be issued in 2015, with initial occupancy likely within five to six years,” predicts Joseph Farhi, partner at Farhi-Zafrir Architects, the Tel Aviv-based firm that drew up the master plan for the project.
He expects the entire project to be completed within 10 years. Three Israeli firms—AmAv Transportation and Traffic Ltd., Braudo-Maoz Landscape Architects Ltd. and Top Environment and Acoustics Ltd.—served as advisers on the project.
“The new business district will create 50,000 jobs by attracting numerous companies and investors from Israel and abroad,” says Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
The new business district will be easily accessible from the main highway to Tel Aviv and from the underground train station, which is under construction.
The project is designed to deal with the acute shortage of office and commercial space in central Jerusalem. The city currently has two relatively small commercial districts in the city center: in the Old City and in East Jerusalem's adjacent neighborhoods, where Palestinian commercial activity is concentrated, and in the nearby downtown area of West Jerusalem.
“Traffic in the area will be underground, with large sidewalks and bicycle paths planned for the area,” says Farhi.