City Front: High time?

The plan for the Colony Hotel was rejected last week.

Fut.Emek hotels 298 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Fut.Emek hotels 298
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
The decision to reject plans for the proposed Colony Hotel in Emek Refaim represents "a significant borderline for future projects," according to architect Marik Shtern. Last week, the city's planning committee rejected outright the controversial proposal put forward by the entrepreneurs behind the Colony project, a move Shtern described as "extremely brave." "In the past, the committees often suggested compromises with the developers, but this time they refused even to discuss the possibility [of modifications]," said Shtern, a vocal opponent of the hotel. He said that he expects the businessmen behind the project to bring their own amendments in the coming weeks. Speaking at the planning committee meeting, fellow architect Ehud Halevi thanked the committee for "preventing the destructive plans from proceeding." Citing the unique cultural and architectural characteristics of the German Colony, Halevi maintained that "in no [similar] place in the world would these plans have been approved." Meanwhile, the upcoming meeting to discuss the Four Seasons hotel project on Emek Refaim is massively important to the fate of both the Four Seasons and Colony proposals, said Shtern. The meeting, to be held on January 9 at the Reich Hotel in Beit Hakerem, will discuss the high-rise plans that the Four Seasons team have submitted. While Shtern believes that the committee have all the evidence that they need to reject the plan, he is aware that if the decision goes in the developers' favor, it will impact all future proposals for buildings in the area. The Colony board is expected to appeal last week's decision, and the group of locals dedicated to fighting the plans "won't rest for a moment," according to a spokesman. The plans were rejected in part due to the committee deciding that there would be an adverse effect on the view of the Old City from the German Colony. Local resident Nicholas Schlagman had mixed feelings about the committee's decision. "It seems a shame to put high-rise buildings in an area like the German Colony, and it will add nothing positive to the Jerusalem skyline," he said. "However, the hotels would bring a much-needed injection of money into the area, which has started to look somewhat rundown in places." Fellow resident Josh Portnoi took a stronger line in favor of the planned hotels. "From the start, I have seen the proposed hotels as a good idea," he said. "They would be an important step in the right direction, in economic terms - both for the immediate area, and Jerusalem as a whole." Finally, Shtern had doubts that those behind the Colony proposal actually intend to use the land for a hotel if they win their case. "We have seen many times in the past where a developer gets permission to construct a hotel, and afterwards changes the plans to make the building a residential block. Real estate is the hot sector in Jerusalem at the moment, and it is likely that the Colony people are really looking to build apartments, which would be far less beneficial to the local economy."