Netanya mayor dreams of Israeli Riviera
Environmental groups concerned by the poor condition of city's coarse sand cliff, which is constantly closed, but developers in the city willing to offer hundreds of millions of shekels for land along the shore. Calcalist presents list of projects that will change Netanya's coast
Most of the real estate developers in Netanya regard the city's mayor, Miriam Feirberg, as a bulldozer who succeeded in doing what many of her predecessors did not: Contend with a city with a problematic image and brand it as a beach town appealing to well-established Israelis, as well as European tourists.
Feirberg is interested in making the city a worthy contender against Tel Aviv and Herzliya in the tourism market. Netanya's advantage, municipality representatives say, is the reasonable rates offered by hotels in the city, most of which have three stars. They claim that there is a growing demand for luxury hotels at international standards, which will meet the needs of French tourists who discovered the city long ago, English tourists who are beginning to get to know the city and the growing number of Russian tourists
Another objective is branding Netanya as a sports city that will cater to the needs of the athletic teams that practice at the Wingate Institute and currently stay in hotels in Herzliya and Caesarea. City leaders also hope that on rainy days in the future they will be able to host European teams that train in Brazil or the Canary Islands.
But not everyone regards this goal favorably. Environmental organizations are worried about the coarse sand cliff on the shore, which is closed at all times. Three years ago, the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel opposed a granting a building permit for a Barzan company project that included a plan for a 30-story building on the shore. SPNI claimed that the fact that the developer did not have a permit from the National Planning Council's committee for beach protection was a violation of the law.
A new project, in collaboration with the Environment Ministry and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies demonstrates that the destruction of the sand cliffs is more severe in more crowded cities along the shore, including Netanya. In response, the Netanya municipality said: "The Environment Ministry is expected to announce a pilot project soon, ahead of the plan to strengthen the cliffs in the coastal cities. Netanya is one of the municipalities that is best prepared for this pilot project, and is expected to take part in it. This is a national project costing billions of shekels. The government will have to make a decision on the matter."
Despite this, numerous exclusive projects are sprouting up on Netanya's coast, and developers seem to be willing to offer hundreds of millions of shekels for land on the shoreline. Calcalist checked who is selling, who is buying and who is building on the Riviera developing on the Netanya coast.
Construction of the Eiland Project, on Netanya's Ben Ami Boulevard, is currently being completed, on some 1.2 acres of land.
The land's fate was unclear four years ago, due to a long battle with the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel. The land was purchased five years ago by the Barzan Company, owned by developer Zion Bariga and his sons, Yaki and Ronen, as well as developer Rafi Zanzori, for $4.5 million, a sum which seemed absurd at the time due to city's condition.
A narrow 30-story building with 137 suites was built on the land, which their owners could use legally for no more than 90 days per year.
According to Yaki Bariga, the land value is now double and a 45 square meter unit in the hotel is valued at NIS 2 million ($530,000).
The land at the intersection of Ben Ami and Zehala belonged to developer Jack Goldstein, who owned the Home-Tel, and was up for sale by a receiver four years ago. Three developers bought the 1.2-acre plot of land for $4.5 million and were granted the right to build a suite hotel. According to Yoram Zino, one of the developers, multiple hotel companies offered to manage the hotel, and a contract was subsequently signed with Ramada International.
The construction of the hotel, which will include 180 50 square meter (538 square feet) suites on 21 floors, is expected to be completed in January 2011.
The hotel is marketing itself as a business hotel and spa, and it has sought the services of interior designer Leah Meller. According to Zino, most of the buyers are British businessmen who will reside in the hotel for up to 90 days per year, and the rooms will be rented out to the general public the rest of the year.
Two well-established hotels in the city will soon become towers, designated for residential use and for tourists. The lot on King David Street, on which the Maxim and King's Garden were built in the past, was purchased four years ago by the Zion Baraga and Sons company for some NIS 27.5 million ($7.3 million).
A 28-floor tower will be built on the lot. A hotel lobby and a lobby for the residential building will be built on the first two floors of the tower. Four hotel floors with 60 rooms, each measuring 25 square meters, and another 22 floors with luxury apartments measuring 160 square meters, with balconies, will also be constructed.
Bariga has already obtained a demolition permit, and a building permit is expected in the coming days. The company believes that construction will be completed by November 2013.
Dizengoff Sahar is selling 5 acres on the cliff, adjacent to Argaman Beach, worth $100,000 million. The company has hired the services of Attorney Amir Chen, one of the leading real estate lawyers in the country, to oversee negotiations with those interested in purchasing the land. According to the approved plan, two 34-storey towers with 160 housing units can be built on the land, as well as a tower with 250 luxury apartments that include 330 rooms on 13 floors.
According to Chen, five sources have expressed interest in buying the land. The possibility of forming a group consisting of a number of different sources is being reviewed, as the transaction would require contending with the hotelier aspect.
The long-standing Esther Theater, which stood at the intersection of Independence Square and King David streets, will also become an ambitious real estate project. The lot, about half an acre, was purchased in 2006 by Tras Investments, controlled by Moshe Schuster, for NIS 28 million ($7.5 million).
According to plans, the building that housed the theater will be preserved and will become a museum featuring Netanya's municipal history. Alongside the building a 1,300 square meter (14,000 square feet) shopping center will be constructed, above which will stand a 23-floor tower spanning 9,000 square meters (97,000 square feet), with 45 luxury housing units.
Market sources believe that prices for the units will start at $1 million. The cost of the project, according to sources in the company, is estimated at NIS 41.6 million ($11 million).
An additional lot on Independence Square, which has been on the market for several years, is still searching for a buyer. The land belongs to businessman Albert Daradshty. According to the approved urban building scheme, 69 housing units totaling 6,500 square meters (70,000 square feet) can be constructed on the land.
The building will be 20-floors and its plan was inspired by Big Ben, in England, in the shape of a grandfather clock. According to Daradshty, negotiations were conducted with the Heftsiba Group in 2006, and the property is now up for sale again for $14 million.
The Israel Land Administration issued a tender to lease 12 acres in Netanya's new Ir Yamim neighborhood, intended for the construction of a hotel. At the time, the Netanya municipality reported that American tycoon Donald Trump had expressed interest in the lot, and his daughter Ivana visited in order to see it, though it did not receive any offers and remained in the hands of the ILA.
At present, the ILA issued another tender for NIS 19 million ($5 million), for the construction of 710 hotel rooms on eight floors.
Netanya Municipality officials are hinting that international sources are interested in the lot, among them a Russian businessman in the hotel industry, who asked to carry out the tender. The results of the tender will be published in mid-August.