A Tel Aviv institution, the sprawling Carmel Market, is finally about to get the face-lift that the city approved years ago, replete with an upgraded, uniform design and at least 320 new apartments alongside.
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Last week Tel Aviv City Hall put up a sign at the market heralding the changes that will convert the place in almost every way. The plan will be brought for approval to the Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Committee in February, with the work scheduled to start a year from now and last two and a half years.
The major change is the addition of at least 320 housing units in an urban renewal project to replace the row houses that back onto the market’s main commercial street. The apartments will be very small, only 50 square meters (538 square feet) large, in buildings five or six stories high with no parking spaces.
The market will be covered, so homes there will have to be in taller buildings if they are to receive sufficient air and light.
In recent months, the municipality has been holding meetings on the plan at city hall; store owners have been shown blueprints for the market along with a schedule for the transformation.
The owners have been informed about the redivision of the plots, the compensation for losing one’s stall or store, and leasing arrangements for the public land that will be zoned for commerce, tourism, public buildings and residences.
The meetings are invitation-only, with a strict guest list approved by the municipal business licensing department. Interested parties who arrived to the meetings to learn of the planned changes – shop renters, business advisers and residents – were turned away if their name wasn't on the list.
The plan is sensitive because it touches on the question of ownership of the stores and stalls. Today most of the stalls are located on what is officially public land, but for decades the stalls have been sold or handed down as an inheritance.
Some have been sublet, but these rights have not been registered officially. Still, the putative owners pay property tax calculated by the city itself – but are still considered illegal squatters. A source involved in the planning process said city officials will be able to remove such tenants “when they want and without any great effort.”
Under the city’s offer, the stall owners will pay 200,000 shekels ($57,000) for a 49-year lease listed in the government land registry for a seven-square-meter plot. According to the committee representing the stall owners, the city will use its measurements of the stalls before the end of 2011, and any changes since will not be included for compensation or registering land.
No agreement has been reached on stalls located in areas that will not be commercial zones. They will either be moved elsewhere or removed entirely. The taxes to be levied on the new ownership rights and the price for the new leases must also still be agreed on.
Under the new plan, a major change is dividing the market into sections based on use such as restaurants or clothing stores. Other types of businesses, such as stalls selling fruits and vegetables or food, will only be allowed in the areas assigned them. The stalls and stores will also need a city business license and will have to meet the requirements of the Health Ministry and fire department.
The plan has several key planks: a single, fixed roof for the market’s main street, a unified design for the stalls, clear entrances and exits to the market, a multistory underground parking lot for 1,000 cars, a logistics center for the market’s management, and new infrastructure, offices and automated facilities for garbage disposal.
Not everyone is impressed. “The Carmel Market will be turned into the Azrieli Mall,” said one leader of the stall owners, who said Tel Aviv has enough malls.