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One of Tel Aviv's trademark streets may soon become much more pedestrian-friendly, according to a plan championed by Tel Aviv Municipality Dir.-Gen. Menahem Leyba.
Shenkin Street will be a very impressive place, Leyba told The Jerusalem Post Monday with unabashed enthusiasm. He added that there would be a new "emphasis on the pedestrians and the history of the place."
The one-way street stretching less than a kilometer from loud and arty Nahalat Binyamin to chic, tree-lined Sderot Rothschild is famous not just for its cafes, but also for a kind of tolerant laissez-faire atmosphere which for many, for better or worse, has come to represent Tel Aviv's essential character.
The municipality's plan calls for an investment of over NIS 10 million throughout 2007 that will be used to "upgrade" the street and make it more "human-focused," Leyba said.
To that end, the municipality plans on enlarging Shenkin's sidewalks and removing obstacles to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, such as lamp posts and telephone poles. As part of the plan, the electric grid will be moved underground.
"It's still not final," the director-general cautioned, "because it will have enormous ramifications for traffic, policing, and the like." It was also important to protect the unique atmosphere on Shenkin. "It's not a night entertainment spot that's open until 2:00 am, like Lilienblum Street," Leyba emphasized.
Nor is it similar to the artistic cobblestone streets in Nahalat Binyamin, with their art galleries and bohemian atmosphere. Rather, Leyba said, "its urban character is unique."
The desire to keep the special zeitgeist of the street intact without adversely affecting traffic patterns has led to a careful discussion over the exact nature of the changes, with the municipality considering various plans for the street. For example, there is talk of closing Shenkin to cars during the daylight hours, or for just part of the week.
If the plan bears fruit, Shenkin will join a string of streets that have received lavish attention over the past few years, as the municipality invests hundreds of millions of shekels in "renewing" important areas throughout the city center. These include sections of Ibn Gabirol, Kaplan and Ben Yehuda, which sport small shops and wide sidewalks.
However the final plans turn out, Leyba promised, "pedestrians will be the new focus" of Tel Aviv's Shenkin Street.
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