Neighborhood Watch: Southern comforts

A new green neighborhood is shaping up in the Barnea quarter of Ashkelon.

Barnea quarter of Ashkelon 521 (photo credit: Courtesy Ashkelon Municipality)
Barnea quarter of Ashkelon 521
(photo credit: Courtesy Ashkelon Municipality)
The hottest trend in the local real-estate scene is “going green” – designing neighborhood compounds and even individual apartment buildings to make them blend in with the both the topography and the environment in the fullest sense of the word.
Designing real estate to follow the topography – the natural curves of the land – is an age-old architectural principle that goes back thousands of years, but the current blend is all-encompassing.
“Green” building includes using ecologically friendly materials whenever possible. It means recycling water and using solar panels not only to heat water but also to produce electricity. It means having a smart, efficient refuse-disposal mechanism and it means planning the openings – mainly windows – so as to maximize natural forces such as the wind and sun to keep the house as cool as possible in summer and as warm as possible in winter, thereby cutting heating and cooling costs.
The Ashkelon Municipality is building a green neighborhood in the Barnea quarter of the city. Barnea, in the northernmost part of Ashkelon, is the city’s most modern neighborhood, inhabited by approximately 17,000 people – mostly young families with a large sprinkling of professionals.
Ashkelon has a special place in the annals of Anglo settlement in Israel. Its westernmost suburb, Afridar, has the distinction of having two firsts. It was the first modern neighborhood of Ashkelon and the first – and so far, only – Anglo “settlement” in Israel. It was founded in 1951 by the Zionist Federation of South Africa solely for South Africans, and its name is made up of a combination of the words “Africa” and “darom,” the Hebrew word for “south.”
The history of Afridar is modern but Ashkelon has a history that goes back to antiquity.
It has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years, with the exception of the period between 1270 and 1596. The Crusader city and citadel were destroyed by the Mameluke Sultan Baybars as part of his policy to completely destroy the Crusader presence in the Holy Land by capturing the city of Acre and all Crusader strongholds. The city was rebuilt by the Turkish empire in the late 16th century. The modern city of Ashkelon came into existence after the 11,000 Arab inhabitants of Al Majdal fled to Gaza in 1948.
Historic Ashkelon, which is in the south of the city, is on the far outer edge of the municipal boundaries.
The “green” compound, which is the first such building project in Ashkelon, takes up only a small southwestern corner of the Barnea neighborhood.
The project, called Barnea Dreams, is being built by a consortium of two leading real-estate firms, Shikun Ubinui and Machlouf Bechor and Sons. The project will have 900 apartments. According to Shikun Ubinui’s vice president Dorit Sadan, “Building green means a healthy lifestyle. It means optimizing nature so as to decrease both energy and maintenance costs.”
The compound is an interesting addition to Barnea as a whole, but the neighborhood has its own appeal.
ASI TAMIR, proprietor of Re/Max Energy Ashkelon, told Metro that “Barnea is the most modern neighborhood in Ashkelon. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to modern developments in more central areas of town. It has no parking problems and has easy access to the national road grid..”
In consequence, there is demand both from local residents who want to upgrade their residential style and from young couples who want to take advantage of the relatively inexpensive prices.
With demand for real estate all over Israel in slow demand, it is slow in Barnea as well. Local families are still upgrading, though, and this is an important source of demand.
There is also demand from residents of Ashdod, a 20- minute drive from Ashkelon, says Tamir, where prices are much more
Average prices in Barnea for a three-room apartment range from NIS 700,000 to NIS 750,000. Average prices for a four-room apartment range from NIS 850,000 to NIS 950,000, while a five-room apartment costs upwards of one million shekels. These prices are reasonable compared to prices of modern accommodations in more central areas of Ashkelon, which can cost over NIS 1.5 million. In Ashdod, prices can reach NIS 2.5 to NIS 3m.
Real estate in the green compound is more expensive because green building techniques increase building costs by between 5 and 10 percent. But according to Sadan, sales are satisfactory.
Some of the company’s sales during the past three months include a five-room, 124-sq.m. apartment with a 12-sq.m. terrace on the second floor, sold for NIS 972,000; a five-room garden apartment 124-sq.m. plus an 86-sq m. garden, sold for NIS 1.09m.; and a six-room, 1,890-sq m. apartment with a 91-sq m. terrace on the ninth floor, sold for NIS 1.5m.