Plans for a major new neighborhood in western Jerusalem on environmentally sensitive open land have taken a major step forward.
The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has approved for deposit a mixed-use plan for 5,250 new housing units and 300 hotel rooms, as well as commercial space and a parking lot on the Lavan Ridge on the western outskirts of the capital. The new neighborhood is just the first of a plan to expand the city to the west, known as the Safdie Plan, after its planner, world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie.
Environmental groups intend on objecting to the plans, which will be built on open green spaces, and warn that the plans could also damage the aquifers in the area and cause the Lavan Spring to dry up.
Some of the housing units in the new neighborhood are intended to be “supplementary land” for urban renewal plans in the nearby neighborhoods of Kiryat Menahem and Kiryat Hayovel. Both neighborhoods have hundreds of old apartments built in the 1950s, for which the city has plans for urban renewal. The new plan and additional land would allow city hall to offer developers additional land, which would make turban renewal projects much more economically feasible and less crowded.
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The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel rejects the city’s plans, saying enough land is available in the city already to build thousands of housing units and construction on the Lavan Ridge is unnecessary. The open, green space in the Jerusalem Hills is an ecological, cultural and social treasure for the residents of Jerusalem and the entire region, said the Society. “The slogan: ‘There is no land for construction in the city’ is an urban legend and nothing more. We must act to strengthen the city from within and build in existing neighborhoods, and not to break through the borders of the city into the open areas – a superfluous step that will cause much greater harm than good,” said the SPNI.
The planning committee said “the preservation of open spaces is no less important than to the SPNI and we are protecting them with our lives. At the same time, the areas for development inside Jerusalem are inadequate to answer the needs for housing in coming years, and the committee is required to balance between the development needs and open spaces.”