It all started about 10 years ago, when the Jerusalem Development Authority published a tender to sell the Templer complex at the entrance of Rehov Emek Refaim. The idea was to add this structure to a vast program of transforming landmark buildings into hotels.

The project presented by the developers, Morad Zamir, includes a large main building and two smaller structures, which would overshadow the two historical buildings of Beit Ha’am and the Armenian Church (which is not inhabited and holds religious services once a week).

According to Chava Teperberg, head of the residents’ committee against the project, the plan as presented to the District Planning Committee will turn the two historical structures, that have been slated for preservation, into part of the hotel, thus depriving the residents of the right to use it as a public space (for cultural events in the neighborhood).

Another issue is the dimensions of the project. Originally, the plot was sold as 300 square meters for tourist purposes only, whereas today in the project submitted it has jumped to a 7,000-sq. m structure. In addition, part of the project submitted is for housing, a use not included or permitted according to the original master plan of the area.

“If this reminds anybody of the Holyland project, it is not a coincidence,” explained Teperberg at the Friday morning gathering on Emek Refaim. “This is very much the same kind of evolution of a tourist project [hotels] that suddenly turns into luxury housing, depriving the public of any access to the buildings that should serve us, the residents.”

So far, the residents of the German Colony, with the support of the Ginot Ha’ir local council, have submitted 1,000 objections which, according to the law, will have to be presented and debated by the committee. It is worth mentioning that the committee rejected the project in 2006 and asked the developer to make substantial changes in favor of the residents’ needs. However, the new plan is still considered inappropriate for the neighborhood by the residents’ committee.
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