Boutique living in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood

Park Eight is the latest addition to Baka’s housing stock, a neighborhood that abounds with stunning homes.

By JOHN BENZAQUEN
October 14, 2013 11:11
The Baka neighborhood in Jerusalem 521

Baka neighborhood Jerusalem 521. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsk)

Baka is one of the more upscale areas of Jerusalem, and a new residential project called Park Eight is the latest addition to Baka’s housing stock, a neighborhood that abounds with stunning homes. Park Eight will offer ultramodern apartments in one of the capital’s prime locations.

Situated in southwestern Jerusalem, Baka has some of the most interesting architectural structures in the city. The neighborhood is bounded by Talpiot to the south, Mekor Haim to the west, the Greek and German colonies to the northwest and Abu Tor to the east. The official name of the neighborhood is Geulim, but very few people call it by that name. Its original name, Baka, means “valley” in Arabic, as the area is located in a valley between two hills.

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The neighborhood was established in the early 1920s and became a garden suburb of the upper middle-class residents of the Old City of Jerusalem, both Muslims and Christians. At the start of the British Mandate period, the trend to leave the Old City for the suburbs intensified. Affluent upper middle-class families bought land in the valley and built homes.

The houses they built were among the most beautiful private homes in Jerusalem. One of the major selling points of Baka today is these beautiful homes. Some of them have been restored, while others have been reconstructed as luxury apartments. The style is eclectic. From an architectural residential perspective, Baka has some of the most attractive houses in Jerusalem -- a mix of Mediterranean Oriental style with a dash of British colonial architecture. The unifying architectural feature is Jerusalem stone. Another unifying feature the area has retained is its rural ambience.

Baka is a vibrant community. It has a very large English-speaking element of around 20 percent of the total population. English is heard everywhere, and it is one of the reasons for the high level of demand for housing in the neighborhood for natives of the US, the UK, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

It is here, in the heart of the neighborhood, that Asdan Israel is building Park Eight, a unique residential project that is utilizing the last reserves of land in Old Baka. It will be a condominium complex of unparalleled luxury and elegance in one of Jerusalem's most desirable neighborhoods.

David Bleeman, CEO of Asdan, is very upbeat about Park Eight. He tells The Jerusalem Post, “The project is unique. It is different from other luxury compounds in Jerusalem, which tend to be empty most of the year. Park Eight is situated in the heart of a thriving neighborhood and will be an integral part of lively Baka, which has some of the city’s finest schools, kindergartens and synagogues.”

He adds, “In addition, there are only 55 apartments spread out on a large 7,000 square meter lot. The majority of the apartments in the project are either garden apartments or penthouses; the remaining floors contain only one or two apartments per floor. This feature allows us to offer an unparalleled boutique living experience, with a lot of attention given to each apartment. Many of our target clients are families that have made aliya or hope to do so in the future “

Park Eight is indeed a unique project. Set just off Derech Beit Lehem, it will offer an exclusive garden residence retreat that is just steps away from Jerusalem's historic landmarks and modern attractions. Featuring eight four-story boutique apartment buildings with six or seven units in each building, there will be 55 dwellings in all.

Park Eight will set a new standard for luxury and elegance in the capital. Work on the project began a few months ago, and residents will be able to move in by the summer of 2016.

Residents of Park Eight will benefit from the most advanced building techniques using the best quality materials, ensuring a very high level of finish. These apartments are built with state-of-the-art technology. They will also be suitable for prospective buyers who are religiously observant, as they will have succa balconies, kitchens with separate meat and dairy areas and Shabbat elevators.

The communal amenities will include a residents’ lounge featuring a state-of-the-art fitness room and a recreation center for children, a spacious park and an experienced real estate management company that will preserve the project’s value for years to come.

The project, designed by local architect Michal Della Pergola, integrates old and new. The modern stone clad façade, with the old buildings surrounding the project, is designed to blend into the 19th century urbanscape. It bridges Derech Beit Lehem, with its lively shops and the green boulevard that stretches through the project. The urban experience melts slowly until it blends into a tranquil green park at the end. The design combines private gardens with open squares and courtyards connecting the buildings.

The land on which Park Eight is being built will be transformed into a beautifully landscaped park with trees, flowerbeds, fountains, benches and a boulevard in the middle of the eight buildings. This island of green will blend nicely into the rural ambience of Old Baka Centrally located, Park Eight will be within easy access of religious establishments, commercial centers, places of entertainment and more. Yet it will be a quiet island of peace and tranquility. It will combine quality, accessibility and serenity in one of the most upscale areas of Jerusalem.

Ariyel Maresky, operations manager of Asdan, says, “Asdan is an Israeli subsidiary of a leading Canadian development company, Medallion Corporation. The company is fully oriented to the residential needs of Anglos, with the added advantage of being an experienced Israeli development company. This combination will ensure a design suited to the needs and tastes of natives of the Anglosphere, with the efficiency and technological skills so necessary in the construction process.”

All these features ensure that Park Eight will be a fitting addition to Baka, an exclusive modern residential project in the heart of Jerusalem that has retained its old world charm.

Baka was always something of a hub primarily because the old Turkish railway station was located at the edge. For that reason, the area was an important gateway to the capital, a transportation link with the coastal regions. The old Jerusalem railway station that was built in the late 19th century is a historical building in its own right. Today, the station has been moved to a modern building, and the old 19th-century Turkish building has become an important cultural compound with shops, restaurants and exhibition halls.

Baka underwent a dramatic change in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The professional middle class recognized the potential of this neighborhood and began to move in. They bought the magnificent, if run-down, palatial homes surrounded by gardens and trees and restored them to their former glory. Some of the larger mansions from the Mandate period were subdivided into luxury apartments and became two- to four-floor apartment buildings with lovely gardens and balconies. These properties feature high ceilings and decorative entrances. Many also have arched windows, and some even have cisterns for their own water supply.

Ezri levi, former CEO of the Jerusalem Development Authority and a Baka resident, sums up the area in one word: neighborhood.

“The good old sense of the word,” he says. “Residents know and greet one another, and intimate coffee shops are pleasant meeting places for residents and visitors. The enchanting architecture, together with the recently developed jogging and bicycle path along the old train track, and the impressive reconstructed old railway compound strengthen the neighborhood’s charm.”

Today, the residents of Baka are mainly upper middle-class families and a mixture of religious and secular Jews. For the religious sector, there are 10 synagogues, catering to all streams. The neighborhood is also popular with English and French-speaking immigrants, and during the past decade, new immigrants from the US and Europe -- France in particular -- have bought heavily in the neighborhood, investing and further upgrading what was already a highly desirable area. Derech Beit Lehem, one of Baka’s central streets, is bustling with life and lined with shops, designer stores, coffee houses, restaurants and more.


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