Jerusalem Approves Controversial Parking Towers Near Old City

Residents, planners and architects argue that the towers would ruin the scenery and contravene planning principles

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The parking facility in Jerusalem
The parking facility in JerusalemCredit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem Municipality is advancing the construction of 10 steel parking towers near the Old City. Residents, planners and architects assert the towers will spoil the landscape of the Old City walls and contravene the policy of reducing public transportation in the city center.

The municipality issued building permits for the towers last week to Eden - the Jerusalem Center Development Company, which the municipality wholly owns. The permits allow it to build six such towers near Damascus Gate and four near Zion Gate. Dozens of additional towers are planned throughout the city. They are 15-17 meters tall and can hold up to 12 vehicles each.

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An informed source said that the municipality will have difficulty building parking towers at the Zion Gate since the area is part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, and the Nature and Parks Authority is expected to object. The facilities in the Damascus Gate area were planned outside the boundaries of the park, near the light rail station.

“It’s simply a lack of civility,” said preservation architect Giora Solar. “I work in many historical cities worldwide and you won’t find such a thing in any historical site. It’s just like the cable car to the Old City. Our municipality suffers from incivility and only goes for technical things, nothing else matters.”

“Building ugly parking towers, especially near the Old City, not only spoils the aesthetic space of the Old City, but also contravenes the policy of reducing dependence on private cars in the city center,” said architect Maier Yagod. “Instead of reducing parking spaces, they’re increasing the supply, thereby creating more traffic jams.”

“This is a big engineering project to be located in a highly sensitive historical landscape spot, without any public monitoring,” asserted architect Gil Gordon, of the municipal conservation committee. "Eden and transportation department engineers obtained construction permits while bypassing planning committees and the preservation committee. But they’ve gone too far. This lack of sensitivity suits entrepreneurs in a provincial town and not a historic capital. The solution is a large underground parking lot, but Eden is seeking easy and destructive solutions.”

“It contravenes the declared policy of less dependence on private cars and encouraging public transportation,” added attorney Itamar Shahar, a city planner active in Jerusalem. “Building it a few dozen meters from the wall, in the Holy Basin, in an expedited process, is bizarre.” He rejected the claim that these facilities would be a temporary solution until public transportation improves. “At Damascus Gate there’s been a light rail for seven years," he noted. "No new lines are planned, so what will change? It’s a case of nothing being more permanent than the temporary.”

The first such tower was built about two years ago near the Mahane Yehuda market. School parents in the city center recently succeeded in delaying a plan to build another parking tower near their children’s school.

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