In March 2008 the private entrepreneur Reuven Hochberg bought the Etz Haim Yeshiva compound on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem for $15 million, valued at the time at only NIS 54 million. It was considered one of the most interesting real estate transactions in recent memory.
During 2013 the compound reached the possession of entrepreneurs Nahum Rosenberger, Amir Biram – previously the president of British Israel – and Yaakov Fashkus, who had previously served as Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem under Uri Lupolianski.
The compound knowns as KIAH – an acronym for the association Kol Yisrael Haverim – occupies a central location in one of the city center’s strategic areas, between Jaffa Road and the Mahane Yehuda Market. The compound boasts four historic buildings: the police building at the compound’s northeast corner, the Etz Haim Yeshiva building (on the register of historic places for preservation), the adjacent kindergarten facility – the second Hebrew-speaking kindergarten ever in the city – and a group of parking lots connected to Mahane Yehuda, at the western end of the property.
In recent years the property has served as parking for marketgoers. The Master Plan for the city calls for the compound to transform into a main commercial center with two residential towers of 24 stories each, totaling 140 apartments and 44 rental units.yes
Calculated by square meter, the purchase by Hochberg reached less than $1,000/m², a relatively low price for such prime real estate in one of the city’s hottest periods. Not by coincidence. Even then it was clear that any buyer would face no small number of complications that would render the development process more expensive.
Currently the plan is undergoing another chapter in its planning saga. Today the Objections Subcommittee of the Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Construction will convene to address objections to the plan by neighborhood residents. Opponents, mainly shop owners along Agripas St., contend that the plan will transform the downtown business district into a “traffic nightmare.”
The construction plan includes two alternatives to ease traffic: the first calls for a bypass to the compound (via the adjacent Klal Building), and the second, via a lowered median along KIAH St. The three companies operating the neighboring parking lots on KIAH and Agripas Streets oppose both ideas, arguing that the plan will exacerbate existing traffic volume at the KIAH-Agripas intersection. There are already dozens of bus lines routed along Agripas, contributing to extensive traffic jams along that main route, not to mention air pollution and noise hazards.
Despite the claims, the alternatives were approved by the municipality’s Roads Division, as well as by the traffic adviser of the District Committee and Ministry of Transportation. It must be likewise noted that the plan submitted by the property owners is compatible with the policy of the new (2009) Jerusalem Master Plan, in which the area was designated for high-rise construction and mixed-use.
On Jaffa Road, near the compound under discussion, the J Tower project has already risen, constructed by the Manrav Co. The co,plex reaches a height of 19 stories, and includes 148 residential units integrated with a boutique hotel and a shopping/leisure center. The project mainly features small apartments of 2 rooms occupying 47m² – 120m². At the marketing stage the apartments were sold at prices between NIS 24,000-38,000m².