Seeking 'the touch of time'

Fast recovering its past glory, Old Jaffa is becoming one of the most popular places to live in the Tel Aviv area.

Old Jaffa_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Old Jaffa_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jaffa is one of the oldest inhabited cities on Earth, if not the oldest. According to archeological finds in the “Old City,” this area was already inhabited in 7500 BCE.
Today, the city is part of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Before the war of Independence in 1948, Jaffa was an Arab town; but after the war, only 4,000 of the city’s original 80,000 inhabitants were left. Some were evicted; the majority fled. Those who stayed and their descendants live in the Ajami quarter to this day.
This covers what can be described as Old Jaffa and the surrounding areas. With Rehov Yefet at the epicenter, the area is bounded by the Mediterranean to the west, Rehov Hanina ben Dosa to the east, the police station and Seraya to the north, and Rehov Yehuda Hayamit to the south.
In Jaffa’s heyday, this was the aristocratic, genteel part of town. It was here that the consulates of the European powers were located: the churches and missions, the hospital and the schools.
After the War of Independence, the area – like all of Jaffa – became a dumping ground for the some of the million-odd immigrants who flooded the country in the first years of the state. For some reason, the Jewish Agency concentrated around 50,000 immigrants from Bulgaria in the city.
Today, that particular area of Jaffa is recovering its past glory, fast becoming one of the most popular places to live in the Tel Aviv area.
The trend started back in the Nineties.
Developers bought dilapidated buildings above the old port area and customs house, restored them and converted them into apartment buildings. Near the sea, and mostly with sea views, these were then sold for very large sums of money.
The idea was to retain the old, oriental look of their architecture. Indeed, in the beginning, one of the area’s major selling points was the fact of its being an ancient residential urban area. Buyers wanted to feel the “touch of time.”
Ilan Pivko, one of Israel’s leading avant-garde architects, was a pioneer of Old Jaffa’s reconstruction.
“Jaffa is a beautiful place – but one has to understand both its beauty and its uniqueness.
An urban entity that has been in the process of development for thousands of years, for me this meant building on the old, using existing architectural motifs, blending in the new while using the old, proven building materials as much as possible.
“And I am happy to say the municipal authorities have ensured that any new construction authorized by the municipal authorities blends with the old.”
Most, if not all, of the new buildings in Old Jaffa are indeed such a happy blend.
Two of the more striking development projects in the area are called Andromeda and Rova. The Andromeda Project, built opposite the sea, is named after the ancient rock promontory at the entrance to the ancient Jaffa port, the major point of entrance to Palestine. Today, it doubles as a fishing port and marina.
The Rova Project is located on Rehov Yefet, near the picturesque flea market. The first stage was a reconstructed building of monumental proportions; later stages included apartment blocks built to blend into the surrounding architecture, with large courtyards, arched windows, etc.
The average price of a small Rova apartment is NIS 2 million. A four-room, 120-square-meter apartment in Andromeda – a modern apartment building constructed in a typically oriental style – costs NIS 3m.
Demand is high; but the number of transactions is not large since the area in question is relatively small and the number of vacant plots nearly nonexistent, Roeh David, joint manager and proprietor of the Israel Investors real-estate brokerage firm, told Metro.
“In Israel, demand usually outstrips supply; in Jaffa, even more so. Developers either have to tear down existing buildings, or reconstruct listed ones. In most cases the process is lengthy and costly, and the end price reflects the difficulty of building in Jaffa.”
Real-estate prices in Jaffa are thus high, attracting a certain kind of clientele: mostly upper-middle-class, middle-aged couples with no children. They appreciate the ambience of a historic city and are able and willing to pay the high prices asked.
Most of the apartments in the Rova Project are relatively small, appropriate for couples whose children have flown the nest. But in other projects in Old Jaffa, apartments are larger – much larger; and prices higher, much higher.
Apartments in the Armenian Monastery, one of whose wings has been converted into luxury apartments, or in The Studio house, or the new development opposite the port, are large and sell for a cool NIS 7m. to NIS 10m.