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Tel Aviv's planning and building subcommittee gave its assent yesterday to a plan that would upgrade Tel Aviv's major open-air market, the Carmel Market, a magnet for residents and tourists alike.

Background material submitted to the committee noted that the market has not undergone renovation since it was established in the 1920s.

"In its current state, the market constitutes a serious nuisance to residents who live in the vicinity," the material said, noting that infrastructure was lacking, sanitation facilities are old and inefficient, loading facilities and roofing structures are inadequate, and access is difficult.

The plan's stated goal is to "return the market and the whole area to the charm and attractiveness that characterized it in the past."

The plan is designed to bring order to a market that grew piecemeal, and that currently features stalls selling fruits, vegetables and meat as well as clothing and other items. The plan will encompass 75 dunams, including areas adjoining the market itself.

According to Orly Arel of the Tel Aviv municipality's engineering department, yesterday's decision was only the beginning of the process.

"[Full] approval of the plan will take about two years," she said, "because it will require the consent of the district committee, which is expected to hear objections, and the approval of various government ministries. After that, we will begin the stage of detailed planning and execution."

She noted that the plan was developed in cooperation with Carmel market merchants and nearby residents.

The improvements along the market's central axis, Carmel Street, will be minimal, according to the plan. But they will include the installation of roofing and benches as well as infrastructure upgrades. West of the market, the plan calls for areas to be designated for mixed residential, commercial and other business uses, and will also permit the presence of hotels. The adjacent Carmelit parking area will be reduced in size in accordance with a new plan for public transportation.

According to an earlier renovation plan for the area which was proposed by Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi (Meretz), the market was established in 1921. Its growth was spurred by the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936, which led Tel Aviv's Jews to try to end their commercial dependence on Jaffa. In 1926, the Tel Aviv municipality proposed relocating the market, and in 1936, it again discussed the problematic nature of the market as a thoroughfare, since by that time, the road was blocked by some 300 merchant stands. Then, in the 1950s, the municipality changed tactics and started trying to see how the market could be improved and renovated.