ILA chooses contractorsfor Pisgat Ze'ev apartments

Recent rumors of a construction freeze in the northeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev were officially put to rest on Tuesday, when the Israel Lands Administration announced that the final bids for a series of building contracts there had been awarded. "Nearly a year after discussions were held regarding three construction bids for a total of 668 housing units in Pisgat Ze'ev, the bidding committee today decided on the final winners," the ILA announcement read. The ILA, which together with the Construction and Housing Ministry own the rights to the land, opened it up for bidding in October 2008, but canceled the tender after the offers from contractors were deemed too low. The contractors, who requested a hearing over the matter after the bids were rejected, argued that the ILA had set the estimates for the land too high, and following a long string of legal appeals, it appears as though a number of those contractors have now won the deals after all. The original bids, which had consisted of plans to build nearly 700 apartments in the eastern section of the neighborhood, have now been reduced to encompass 430 apartments on 138 dunams (13.8 hectares) of land. The issuance of building permits is the last stage before ground can be broken, and construction of the apartments could begin within six months. Rumors that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had agreed to halt construction in Pisgat Ze'ev had been circulating since late July, when Channel 10 aired a report that claimed he had agreed to a freeze in the neighborhood, which is the Green Line, after meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell. The Prime Minister's Office has denied the report since, but Netanyahu had come under fire from both Pisgat Ze'ev residents and officials from the Jerusalem Municipality, over the absence of progress with the building plans. In August, 20 of the 31 City Council members signed a letter that was delivered to the prime minister demanding that he move ahead with the construction of apartments in the neighborhood. While City Council members told The Jerusalem Post that they had never received an answer to that letter, it now appears that the response will be seen on the ground.