Legendary Chocolate Factory Comes to Bittersweet End

Yehonatan Gefen wrote a beloved children's song 25 years ago about the old Elite chocolate factory near the entrance to Ramat Gan, across from the diamond exchange. The beautiful Bauhaus-style building, erected in 1934, gave the nearby intersection its name, Elite Junction.

However, both the song and the building may soon enter the annals of history. Strauss-Elite announced Thursday that it has sold the 14.8 dunam property to a pair of developers for $44 million. The company, which closed the factory two years ago, locating its administrative headquarters and factory store there instead, said it would vacate the premises in the coming months.

"The developers plan to transform the area into a modern housing and office project," the company announced. A 65-story skyscraper, with both residential and commercial space, is planned, similar to the Moshe Aviv tower located across the street.

Erez Vigodman, president & CEO of Strauss-Elite Group, said the corner building of the property, where the company offices currently reside, will be turned over to the Ramat Gan municipality, which will decide whether or not to preserve it.

The remaining structures, including the chocolate factory, will be razed to make way for the skyscraper.

The recent recession hit the prestigious diamond exchange vicinity hard, like in other areas, and thousands of square meters are said to be empty. Many residential quarters, including the Savyonei Gad neighborhood, are in the area.

No details have been provided regarding the time frame or the number of housing and office units to be built, but a representative of the buyers called their planned project "grandiose and unique."

Vigodman noted that the deal is contingent that building plans be approved, which is expected by the end of 2005. As for the current offices, Vigodman said Strauss-Elite would explore the option with the purchasers to integrate them into the project. Otherwise, they will have to relocate elsewhere.

In time, as the smell of bus exhaust replaces the aroma of chocolate, romantics among us will be left with only memories, songs, and the classic "The Sixteenth Lamb" disc.