New Master Plan Would Transform City Neighborhoods

Aug 3rd, 2010 | By | Category: Tel Aviv

What Tel Aviv’s new urban master plan means for the city center, south Tel Aviv and Jaffa.

Note: this post gets kinda technical, and is meant for people who live in the city or  know it pretty well.

One of the issues which Tel Aviv’s new master plan emphasizes heavily is hi-rise construction. In dealing with different quarters of the city, the plan proposes different “alternatives.” For the most part, they are presented as “minimum” and “maximum” alternatives, which vary in the amount of new construction.

As far as hi-rises go, no serious changes are in store for the area known as the  “White City,” located between Ibn Gvirol and the sea. UNESCO recognition and the municipality’s preservation plan preclude hi-rise construction there, and as far as the municipality’s planners are concerned, the area is “hermetically sealed,” with little room left for large-scale new construction. A few skyscrapers projects that managed to gain approval before UNESCO recognition will proceed, however, but these will apparently be the last hi-rises built in the city center (west of Ibn Gvirol, anyway). The plan also recommends extending the no-skyscraper zone north to the Yarkon River, and east to the area between the Yarkon, Namir and Pinkas.

East of Ibn Gvirol, the plan proposes adding 1,000 new housing units. Three alternatives are on the table (new construction in brown, existing building in blue, and approved building plan in purple):

Option 1: minimum

Picture 1 of 3

Residential buildings of up to 10 stories will be allowed along Ibn Gvirol and Arlozoroff Streets.

During the city’s public participation hearings, a clear preference emerged for a combination of the first two alternatives: allowing for buildings of up to 10 stories along Ibn Gvirol and Arlozoroff, while also allowing hi-rise construction at specific intersections and under specific conditions. Residents also expressed support for redesigning main streets in the area in a way that integrates commercial storefronts and traffic calming, while giving priority to pedestrians and bicycle riders.

South Tel Aviv & Jaffa

One of the pillars of the plan is the development of a new business district in the south of the city along an expanded traffic artery called Shlavim. Although this is an idea that the municipality has been promoting for several years, different alternatives were nevertheless presented for the area during public participation sessions.

The images below represent the two alternatives that were presented for the area, which is currently populated mostly by garages and small businesses. In the images, north is to the right, and the sea, to the west, is at the top of the image. The straight red line toward to top of the image is Jerusalem Boulevard (where, according to the plan, the Red Line – the first line of the city’s light rail/subway – will run).

Option 1: residential + offices

Picture 1 of 2

75% residential, 25% office space. Buildings up to 12 stories high, with a couple of hi-rises. Buildings on side streets will blend in with existing urban fabric. The street's main function will be to funnel private vehicle traffic toward the city center.

Neither of these alternatives were a hit among the residents who participated in public participation sessions. Many of them commented that the plans, as presented, did not take into account the unique character of Jaffa and south Tel Aviv – the area’s history and social, cultural and economic uniqueness were nowhere to be found in the plan. Social justice issues, particularly pertinent in this part of town, were also lacking.

The residents supported a vibrant and urban future for Shalvim, including extensive office space, but they expressed concerns that the types of jobs that would be created would not fit the profile of the local population. The massive investment in new physical infrastructure, instead of in social and cultural infrastructures, was perceived as a precursor to gentrification, a process which is already occurring.

The residents were insulted by the plan’s stated intention to bring a “quality, strong population” to the area, and noted that a mixed Jewish-Arab city like Jaffa requires special planning consideration, not generic solutions. They also noted that, if new housing was meant for the veteran population, towers were not an appropriate solution.

The planners conducting the hearings were receptive to these concerns, and suggested that a third option be formulated for the area: a community-based alternative. It is not clear if municipal planners have since formulated such an alternative, but nothing of the sort appears in the materials released by the municipality.

It often happens that when urban planners present multiple “alternatives,” without explaining which is the favored one, those planners, and the politicians above them, have already made up their minds as to which scenario they would like to see played out. In this case, previous statements by key people in the municipality indicate that the city sees the Shlavim area as a supremely important land reserve.

From the municipality’s perspective, the center of the city is now off limits to massive new construction, while the south, with its giant “black holes” represents a tabula rasa which the city can fill up with dense new construction and traffic arteries leading to the center. Thus, it would be reasonable to assume that, regardless of public opinion, the municipality is determined to both expand Shlavim Road for cars and fill up the space on either side of it with as much new construction (primarily office and commercial space, in hi-rises) as possible.

Elsewhere in Jaffa, different alternatives were presented for a number of areas. Maximum and minimum scenarios were presented for the neighborhoods of Yaffo Gimel and Yaffo Dalet, as well as Kiryat Shalom and Neve Ofer.

Regarding the area of Midron Yaffo, a newly created seaside park near the Ajami neighborhood, one alternative suggested filling up some of the space between the neighborhood and the sea (west of Kedem) with hundreds of new housing units and hotels. During the public participation hearings, this idea was initially rejected by residents, as potentially more of the same luxury developments and gentrification.

Upon further discussion, however, the residents proposed an interesting idea: inserting a mechanism into the plan whereby the proceeds from this new construction would go towards renovating older buildings in the neighborhood and building affordable housing units. The residents also suggested determining a minimum percentage of affordable housing units in new developments, an idea which is currently being put into practice by the Jerusalem Municipality.

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  1. The Jaffa popular committee for housing rights and land allocation submitted a detailed criticism of the plan, which with the help of “Bimkom, planners for human rights”. We participated in the public meetings and we completely oppose the building of housing units west of Kedem street, and not as written in your article.

    In addition we oppose the proposed changes in Kedem and HaDudaim streets which will lead to the demolition of several Palestinian owned homes.

  2. First, Jesse, thanks for dealing with the topic of the new city master plan. Given the strange silence of architects and city planners from the blogosphere in regards to this topic, yours is a needed, and unfortunately, sole voice. The result of the Shlavim plan along with the projected development along Kedem (I think its pretty clear which is the preferred option) will be a double-pronged gentrification in Yafo which will clear out the older poorer Arab and Jewish population allowing the city to realize its true aim of making Tel Aviv a “world city”, one giant gated community. This isn’t what was intended in the vision for Tel Aviv’s future, that resulted from the public participation, as a city for all its residents (the existing ones) from cradle to grave.

  3. Jesse, thanks for that very detailed and informative article. Would like to hear more about their attempts to make the city more sustainable and greener. Here in the US Siemens USA, for instance, have just launched a new campaign called sustainable cities: Can we see similar trends in Tel Aviv? Looking forward to reading more about the issue of sustainable cities!

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