From dolphins to highrises

The ILA has approved a major construction project for the Dolphinarium area, but critics say building there would block off the views and sea breezes for residents.

dolphinarium 88 224 (photo credit: )
dolphinarium 88 224
(photo credit: )
After eight years of debate, the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) has finally approved a major building project for the neglected Dolphinarium area on the Tel Aviv beachfront, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Tel Aviv. But strong criticism is being voiced about the plans to build two large towers in the area. "This is a terrible plan that wants to put 48,000 square meters of concrete in front of the eyes of residents," city councilor Meital Lahavi said. According to the report, the Dolphinarium area comprises 18.5 dunams of prime beachfront land, today valued at NIS 283 million. Owned by the ILA, the land was leased to a company which opened the Dolphinarium in 1980. During its heyday in the early 1980s, thousands of people would come to watch the dolphin shows and to eat at the many surrounding coffee shops and restaurants. By the mid-1980s, the shows had lost popularity and had become unprofitable, and the area began to deteriorate. German-Jewish developer Yosef Buchman took over the lease, with the stated aim of building a hotel on the land. The municipality initially fought the idea, backed up by laws that prohibit building less than 100 meters from the beach. But in the year 2000, the city came up with a deal that would enable it to take over much of the land and let Buchman build a hotel and a residential tower on the remainder. After years of stormy debates and countless discussions, that deal has now been approved by the ILA. But it must still come before the District Planning and Construction Committee for approval before it can go ahead. If the deal is approved, the city plans to tear down the neglected Dolphinarium building - notorious since the 2001 terrorist bombing there that killed 21 young people - and extend the promenade (tayelet) southward, while Buchman plans to spend NIS 75 million on building a 28-storey, 450-room hotel and a 36-storey residential tower containing 210 apartments. Green groups and residents of the area are strongly opposed to the plans, saying there should be no extension of the "wall of towers" that already blocks off the views and sea breezes for Tel Aviv residents. Deputy mayor and green faction leader Pe'er Visner said that while the idea of extending the promenade should be welcomed, there should be no more towers built along the shore. "It is not possible that a concrete strip like this should cut off the Tel Aviv skyline," Visner said.