Haifa's Compound 21
Haifa's Compound 21, formerly the site of a Turkish market in the city. Photo by Rami Chelouche and Eyal Toueg
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What’s the secret to breathing life into dying neighborhoods? Judging by New York’s Soho in the 1970s and beyond and, more recently, Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn, the answer lies in attracting artists and designers who, in turn, attract gentrification. That trend has taken root in Israel, too, first in Tel Aviv’s Gan Hahashmal, then in Jaffa’s flea market – and now in Haifa, with the recent opening of Compound 21 in the lower city.

The complex, known as “Mitcham 21” in Hebrew, officially opened last month. It’s not far from the Haifa port, which has also gotten a facelift (sensing a trend?) in recent months.

Mitcham 21 sits on the site of the city’s former Turkish market, which had been built by port workers from Thessaloniki brought to Israel in the 1930s.

The Haifa municipality has worked feverishly to draw young Israelis to the area: This particular project, meant to spur business, gives 21 artists – out of 160 that applied – a chance to hawk their wares out of rent-free workspaces (at least for the first two years; they also get a discount on city tax).

The result is that rather than worry about money, artists and designers can let their creative juices flow in an inspired environment of their peers. Visitors can weave their way through the shops, galleries and studios, interacting with the “artistes” and watching them work in their natural setting.

Among the creations to be had are clothes and accessories, shoes, handbags, jewelry, wood and metal works, textile creations, paintings and drawings, rare books, collectors’ items and more. Some of the artists here flocked north from Tel Aviv-Jaffa, including jewelry-maker Uri Ungar and shoe designers Achat Achat (Una Una), while others found their way to Haifa from other parts of the country. You could call it an artistic ingathering of the exiles.

Compound 21 is easily accessible using public transportation. It’s open Monday-Wednesday, 10 A.M.-6 P.M.; Thursday 10 A.M.-11 P.M.; Friday 10 A.M.-2 P.M. and Saturday 10 A.M.-4 P.M.

For more information, go to downtown.co.il.