Rehavia was once the most sought-after area in Jerusalem.Though there are much posher areas these days, any mention of Rehavia immediately conjures up exclusivity and gracious living. Still not what it was during the British Mandate and up until the late 1960s, it is still thought of as one of Jerusalem’s high-class residential areas, with a distinctive central European accent and the continued presence of the Prime Minister’s Residence.When the British established their rule in Palestine, the Jewish Agency believed that a large influx of middle- class Jewish families from central Europe was to be expected – particularly from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. It was thus imperative to create suitable accommodation in Jerusalem for them and a middle-class neighborhood was planned, with apartments that were more or less equivalent to what middle-class families were accustomed to in Germany and in the successor states of the vast Hapsburg Empire, which disintegrated at the end of World War I.The new neighborhood was designed for and built on land purchased from the Greek Orthodox Church – which remains the largest single proprietor of land in the capital.The planning was entrusted to famous German Jewish architect Richard Kaufmann. His central idea in planning the new neighborhood was the incorporation of the concept promoted by noted British urban architect Sir Ebenezer Howard: urban garden suburbs, meant to stress social ideals and the Zionist Movement’s emphasis on agriculture.Work on planning and building started in the early 1920s. The Jerusalem of the time was a small city but Kaufman was forward-looking, and he designed Rehavia as an urban garden suburb of a bustling metropolis, based on successful Howardian “garden cities” in Britain and the US.As designed by Kaufman, Rehavia was to be a quiet suburb situated within walking distance of the city center – then, as now, in the area of King George Avenue and Jaffa Road. By intentionally incorporating narrow roads that prevented easy flow of traffic, and only allowing commerce to take place on its bordering streets – Keren Kayemeth, King George, Ussishkin and later, Azza Road – Rehavia has maintained its tranquil, upper-class aura to this day. The central idea was of a series of residential apartment buildings that were connected not to each other, but to a sort of residential island in the midst of a sea of green – their own garden. This style is in contrast to the rows of houses in European capitals, stretching the length of whole streets and not separated from each other.Most of the area was built in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, with sturdy, solid stone houses, some in the Bauhaus style. Grounds were intended to be maintained as nice, flowery gardens, but this was not always so; local culture did not encourage cooperative maintenance of gardens and communal areas.In its heyday, the area was home to famous people; residents included the cream of the intellectual and political elite, such as David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir. The first official President’s Residence was also here.Still very much an “in” place, the real estate scene is dominated by the fact that original owners are dying out and their homes are being either rented out or torn down to build modern apartment buildings.The area is also undergoing a change in the make-up of the population. First populated by liberal middle- class central Europeans, many religiously observant, affluent Anglos are purchasing properties and renovating them as single-family homes.Thanks to the Jerusalem Municipality’s preservation and antiquities department, which is responsible for building policy, these veteran townhouses have maintained their old-world charm and ambiance. One of the advantages motivating people to move in is the high density of religious institutions and synagogues throughout the neighborhood.This brisk demand from affluent religious families is reflected in the prices, and although it is not the most expensive area in Jerusalem, prices still pack a hefty punch. Apartments fetch premium prices from $10,000 to $12,000 per sq.m., while penthouses built atop these old buildings can fetch from $15,000 to $20,000 per sq.m. And with good reason: it is a leafy, verdant neighborhood near the city center.With its vast appeal, supply in Rehavia is limited – because there are no empty plots. The only way new projects can be realized is when old buildings are torn down – not an easy thing to do, since most of the buildings are marked for conservation. A much better solution is building new floors onto existing buildings, creating more apartments. These are very much in demand; the extra floors are added on buildings with historic facades, which are restored. The public areas, such as entrance lobby stairwell, are upgraded and the new apartments are built to blend in with the period building, with high ceilings and large rooms, yet with all modern appliances and technology.Demand in Rehavia usually outstrips supply, and whatever comes into the market is sold relatively fast.The same goes for apartments offered for rent, as the neighborhood is attractive to students with means – being close to the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus as well as the bohemian coffee shops and restaurants on Azza Road.Rentals of an average three-room, rundown apartment of the type favored by students can be as little as NIS 4,500 a month, while a fancy four-room apartment favored by overseas students can rent for as much as $4,000 a month.