Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Square will be lowered to street level and a garage with up to 280 parking places will be constructed under the site, according to an announcement by the Tel Aviv Municipality following a survey conducted among the city's residents.

Some 53 percent of respondents to the survey - which consisted of a representative sample of 1,000 Tel Aviv residents over the age of 18 - opted for the lowering of the square and the construction of the parking garage; 39 percent wanted the square lowered but no parking garage; and 8 percent didn't express an opinion.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai has already instructed municipal professionals to begin planning the changes in keeping with the results of the poll, which was conducted by the Dahaf Institute..

The latest survey was the second on the subject. Some six months ago, respondents were given three options to choose from - the renovation of the current square, lowering the square with the construction of a parking garage below, and lowering the square without the parking garage. Then, 41 percent of the respondents went for the option of lowering the square and building the parking garage; 33 percent wanted the current square to undergo renovations; 23 percent wanted the square lowered but no parking garage; and 3 percent failed to express an opinion.

Based on the overwhelming majority in favor of lowering the square to street level, Huldai advised conducting the latest survey with regard to the parking garage.

In recent weeks, opponents of the parking garage option have held a number of events in the square to promote their cause. They claim that there is no need for a parking garage as there are several others that in the area already and they usually have hundreds of vacant places during the day. An additional parking garage, they add, will only attract more vehicles to the already congested area and lead to increased air pollution.

"The construction of a parking garage under the square will not allow for the creation of a green public expanse of quality with shade-giving trees," said a statement distributed by a group known as the Front for Lowering Dizengoff Square. "In addition, the parking garage will dictate the way in which the square will be designed."

Members of the group also warn that construction of a parking garage will harm the ancient ficus trees around the square and also extend the work on the site from a few months to a period of three to four years. "Construction of a parking garage under the square is a repeat of the mistake made by raising the square that gave preference to private vehicles over pedestrians," they say.

Architect Zvi Lisher, who planned the current square, also voiced disappointment with the results of the survey and, primarily, the municipality's handling of the matter, charging that the survey's questions were formulated in a misleading manner designed to ensure that the option of lowering the square and constructing a parking garage underneath it would prevail.

"An underground parking garage of such dimensions, like the municipality is planning, requires ventilation, going in and going out, with the polluted air being emitted into the street," Lisher said. "Over and above this, when a parking garage is built in such a central location, it only attracts vehicles, and this goes against the trend today of green construction."