Until just a few years ago, only extreme devotees or young people moved to Jaffa. The people who bought property deep inside the city – other than those who were pushed south for financial reasons – were usually bohemian types enchanted by the sandstone, the muezzin's call and the sound of the waves.
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Once they arrived, the radical became the conventional, and Jaffa's north, on the border of Tel Aviv, put on a friendly face for families and couples strolling by. New businesses filled the flea-market area and Yefet Street, and the completion of the boardwalk between Herzliya and the renovated Jaffa Port further increased the traffic.
At the same time, residential projects got under way, aimed at people who wanted to enjoy the magical surroundings without the hassle of renovating a property. Some of these new homes were sensitively integrated into the neighborhood; others displaced the population and created enclaves in the city. Most designers wanted their projects to become part of Jaffa's exotic mix and incorporated oriental designs.
But a little further south, on Jerusalem Boulevard near Bat Yam, this social change wasn't being felt. It wasn't until four months ago that the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality approved a new residential neighborhood – 1,000 units on the ruins of the Maccabi Jaffa grounds east of the boulevard. And nearby another neighborhood of similar size is being planned.
Over the coming weeks, construction will begin on the first project, called Jaffa on the Boulevard. The project, designed by architect Ilan Pivko's office, contains around 140 apartments, each with three or four rooms. This is perhaps the city's first mass construction project that doesn’t try to offer "Jaffa-style" living. Instead it targets people who see the city as a direct continuation of Tel Aviv.
"The high demand and momentum have surprised me … this is a critical mass that will significantly change the area," says Pivko. He's also surprised by the clients the project is attracting; they're an "Alpha Tel Aviv crowd" looking for quality accommodation near transportation routes.
The new addition is comprised of two elongated buildings, each five stories high, on poles. Behind them will be four 12-story buildings. A driveway will connect the buildings, and there will be space for a small park or playground.
A different kind of boulevard
Stylistically, the project doesn't boast overly decorative features, drawing inspiration instead from the International Style and the White City. More than anything, the project has been influenced by the many large buildings being put up in the north of the boulevard.
And yet Jerusalem Boulevard is much different than the avenues in Tel Aviv proper, both in terms of character and size. Compared to residential Tel Aviv boulevards such as Ben Gurion, Nordau and Chen, most pedestrian traffic on Jerusalem Boulevard takes place on the sidewalks, where the shops and restaurants are, not in the special paths inside the avenue.
Despite this, Pivko doesn't think attracting pedestrians to the new project's businesses will be a problem. He mentions Rothschild Boulevard, which attracts pedestrians all day long.
Naturally, the new project – and others to follow – will increase prices in the area. But it's hard to argue that the existing community will be displaced (at least during the first few years of the new construction), since the project's large space stands empty. And though this is a dense project with high occupancy rates (that developers will profit from), it has the potential to create a fitting urban space that will also serve the current residents.
"This is a place worth being in: There are a lot of students, the infrastructure is in place, there's business and the vitality of a city. And soon, with the light rail, there will be convenient public transportation,"says Pivko, who has been living in Jaffa for nearly 30 years. For him, the municipality and probably the people who wind up living in the new buildings, this is the beginning of the new Jaffa.