A delegation from Extell Development Company, a New York-based real estate firm, will be arriving in Israel on Sunday to meet with prospective tenants for their recently launched International Gem Tower project, a 34-story office tower, located on 47th Street in the heart of New York's famed Diamond District. Extell plans to host a presentation for local members of the diamond, gem and jewelry business community at the Israel Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan. Raizy Haas, Extell's senior vice president in charge of the project, hopes that those Israeli diamond companies which often do business on 47th Street will show keen interest in learning how the building's services, amenities and security have been designed to address the specific business needs of members of the trade. "Israeli diamantaires have become used to the convenience of doing business within the secure boundaries of Ramat Gan's four diamond exchange buildings, enjoying a wide array of services," Haas noted. "Until now, such facilities have not existed in New York and we are sure they will want to understand the choice of services and amenities that the development will feature. "And, unlike offices in other buildings on 47th Street, the offices at the International Gem Tower are for sale," Haas emphasized. "We recognize that in this particular industry office ownership is highly desirable." The new building will likely be a Free Trade Zone, he said, a designation that would provide the opportunity for unit owners to import foreign merchandise without Customs entry or the payment of United States duties until the goods are removed from the zone for sale in the country. "We have the backing of the local and state governments and believe it is a mere formality before we receive federal approval," said Haas. The $750 million building was designed by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, who are known for their forward-looking designs, which can be seen in projects such as Dubai's Infinity Tower and the international terminal in San Francisco. The first construction phase of the Manhattan tower, which includes three underground levels that will house gem industry vault operations, utility infrastructure, parking facilities and retail, has already begun and is being constructed by Tishman Construction Company of New York City. The first construction phase is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with overall construction scheduled for completion in 2011. On October 19, the visiting Extell team will host an event at the Cullinan Restaurant, located on the "bridge" between the Shimshon and Maccabi buildings, opposite the Israel Diamond Exchange trading hall. A detailed presentation will be given about the project, with handouts available both in English and in Hebrew. Haas said that the team had already paid visits to Mumbai and Hong Kong before traveling to Israel. In welcoming the Extell team's visit, Avi Paz, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange noted that "our industry is always on the lookout for innovation and renewal. I hope that Extell's IGT project will help improve the conditions under which the diamond, gem and jewelry trade does business on 47th Street." Following the event, the Extell representatives plan to spend the week in Israel for private meetings with Israeli diamond company representatives. The Israeli diamond sector has experienced a slight upturn in recent months, despite the ongoing recession that has struck a serious blow to the luxury goods industry. Compared to figures from the end of 2008, which saw polished diamond exports drop by more than 90%, since the beginning of 2009, exports are down by only 50% from pre-depression levels. State diamond controller Shmuel Mordechai explained that the first nine months of the year showed a large drop in the import and export of both rough and polished diamonds, in Israel and other countries, due to the global economic crisis, but that an upward turn has been discerned since the beginning of the year. "The improvement will continue over the next few months and exports will rise, but it will take a few years for the market to return to the activity of 2007 and 2008," said Mordechai.