If MK Eitan Cabel, the minister in charge of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, has his way, the IBA's Romema building will be replaced by a new neighborhood of luxury housing for haredim and a state-of-the-art broadcast center and digital broadcast tower for Israel TV and radio. While the building served as the site of the IBA's first televised broadcast back in 1968, today it is lacking in facilities for modern communications. Moreover, the site has greatly increased in value because of the housing demands created by Jerusalem's burgeoning haredi population. Plans call for a new center to be erected near the present building, including a huge communications antenna along the lines of the 212-meter Telecom Tower Berlin-Sch ferberg in the German capital. "The purpose is to build a special and contemporary building, for example [like] the CN Tower in Toronto," Cabel told In Jerusalem, referring to the world's tallest freestanding structure, which is 553.33 meters high. "The issue isn't the height [of the tower] but the aesthetics." However tall, the proposed tower will have to relate architecturally to the 118-meter tall Calatrava Bridge now being constructed near the Central Bus Station as part of the Light Rapid Transit line, scheduled to open in two years. Cabel's proposal will be presented shortly to Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson. Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit has already given his blessing to the scheme, which will be presented before the cabinet in a coming session. The Finance Ministry had supported moving TV broadcasting from Jerusalem to nearby Neveh Ilan, where land is cheaper and the infrastructure built for the Golan-Globus Studios already exists. For symbolic reasons it decided not to remove the IBA from the capital. Thus the new plan was drawn up: The present building and the adjoining properties, including the radio offices, will be moved and the land sold, mostly to create a new luxury haredi neighborhood. With the price of land soaring in Romema due to its proximity to the Central Bus Station and the new Train Station due to be completed in 2011, the IBA is expecting to make a handsome profit. Those funds will pay for the new building. The director of the project, Gabi Shohat of the Finance Ministry, is expected to issue an architectural tender shortly. The cost of the design will be NIS 1 million. "The conditions today for IBA workers are utterly disgraceful," Cabel said. "The new building will be truly fantastic. All those working in broadcasting in Jerusalem today, both Israelis and foreigners, will be concentrated in a single facility with great savings. We're talking about one of the most unique buildings to be erected in Jerusalem, and one with a distinctive appearance." Asked about staff at private media companies housed at Jerusalem Capital Studios on Jaffa Road and elsewhere, Cabel explained his project won't affect them. The Ministry of Housing and the Treasury also emphasized that "this isn't a regular building. It will be larger than 10,000 sq.m., and will incorporate a visitors' center, rental of services for communications staff and preparation of courses for media, etc." Toronto's CN Tower is a symbol of the Canadian city, and attracts two million visitors annually. While originally intended for telecommunications, it became more profitable as a tourist attraction than as a broadcast tower.

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