Vacant Hotel in Jerusalem to Get New Lease on Life

Long-vacant President Hotel to provide tourist lodgings but also apartments.

Olivier Fitoussi

The President Hotel in downtown Jerusalem will become a mixed-use residential and hotel complex after standing vacant for over two decades.

The new plans are moving forward after the Jerusalem Municipality and the Africa-Israel group came to an agreement last week. They include a facility that would be divided up into a 180-room hotel and dozens of residential units, with somewhat more space allocated to the hotel. The precise number and size of the apartments has not yet been determined.

The President Hotel, on Ahad Ha’am Street in Talbieh, one of Jerusalem’s most attractive neighborhoods, was purchased by Africa-Israel 26 years ago with the aim of converting to private residences, but the plans encountered opposition from the city and the building has stood empty ever since.

“I live one street over from this building and it is a symbol of abandoned property in Jerusalem,” said municipal council member Hanan Rubin, who also sits on the local planning and building committee.

“It is situated on a valuable 5 dunams of land [a little over an acre] in the center of the city," he added. "We applied pressure on Africa-Israel. They understood that we would not relent” – and would pass a law demanding payment of municipal taxes and fines on abandoned property.

In the course of talks with the building’s owner, the city demanded that more than half of the new project be devoted to hotel space and that the apartments be relatively small.

“As someone who grew up in the Talbieh neighborhood," Rubin said, "the sad story of the President Hotel has been with me for a long time. For 26 years, Africa-Israel has been holding onto this asset, leaving it as an open sore at the very heart of one of Jerusalem’s most beautiful neighborhoods."