IDF to Give Up Tel Aviv Airfield Early to Make Room for Homes

Land to be freed up by relocation of Sde Dov airfield planned to hold over 16,000 housing units, hotels and commercial facilities.

David Bachar

Israel's defense and finance ministries, along with the Israel Lands Administration, agreed Monday to close down the Sde Dov military airport in Tel Aviv by 2017, two years earlier than originally planned. The defense establishment will receive NIS 1 billion ($289 million) in compensation, which it will use to resolve some of the 2014 budget challenges faced by the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry.

Shutting down Sde Dov is part of a government decision to move IDF bases from in-demand areas, so as to increase the supply of available housing there. As part of the new agreement, the Defense Ministry will evacuate the first five acres of land at the airport by December.

Within two months, the treasury, Defense Ministry and ILA will hammer out a detailed plan for the evacuation of various IDF bases in central Israel and other in-demand areas, for the sake of urban and economic development (as part of a government plan known by its Hebrew acronym, Shoham).

The early evacuation of Sde Dov, located on the Mediterranean coast, will enable the treasury, the ILA and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality to move ahead with their development plans for the area, which call for construction of more than 16,000 housing units, commercial facilities, hotels and a park on the beach. Since restrictions on high-rise construction around the airport will be lifted, it will also be possible to add building rights equivalent to 6,800 housing units as part of other local development plans.

The Sde Dov plan is one of a number of projects for high-demand areas in the central part of the country, involving vacating sites such as Keren Hakirya, the northern part of IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, to make way for the construction of what will be Israel’s highest office tower and a light-rail station (the compound recently closed its doors); the Tzrifin base; and the Israel Military Industries' plant which is to be moved from Ramat Hasharon.

A joint statement issued by the treasury and Defense Ministry said the agreement reached Monday constitutes a key element in government efforts to lower housing prices, by increasing supply in popular residential areas. In addition to the direct impact on the housing market, the quality of life of Tel Aviv residents will improve, and Israel’s aviation infrastructure will be upgraded.