Neighborhood Watch: Under the shadow of the towers

The municipality wants to see Tel Aviv’s Montefiore Quarter develop into a hybrid neighborhood.

Azrieli (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Azrieli towers – that vast high-rise compound whose more than 40-story buildings house offices, hi-tech industries and one of the country’s largest malls – can in many ways be said to embody modern Tel Aviv.
The three towers stand in start contrast to the adjacent Montefiore Quarter, one of the oldest inhabited areas of the Tel Aviv metropolis, whose history goes back to 1842.
It was then that Yehuda Halevi, the chief rabbi of Jaffa, bought a 103- dunam plot and planted a citrus orchard on the land. In 1855, the land was bought by Sir Moses Montefiore who wanted to help create agricultural settlements in Palestine.
In 1922, the orchard was uprooted and the land parceled out and used to build homes – some single family dwellings, others with up to four apartments in two-story apartment houses.
As time passed, the area became the abode of various small industrial enterprises such as carpentry and iron mongering.
There is also a large concentration of garages and auto-related businesses. The humble dwellings remained, but now they are intermingled with offices and other businesses.
Today, the quarter is bordered by the Ayalon River to the east, the Azrieli compound to the north, Rehov Yitzhak Sadeh to the south and Begin and Hamasger streets to the west.
From a functional perspective, this area can be divided into two parts. The southern half, south of Rehov Ben- Avigdor, is purely business; the northern part is dwellings and businesses, one of which happens to be the Tel Aviv office of The Jerusalem Post.
For many years this was a rundown area of Tel Aviv, but things are changing apace.
DEVELOPERS ARE showing growing interest in the area. They are tearing down old, dilapidated properties and building new apartment blocks six stories high. Some are office buildings, also six stories, because the municipality does not allow very high-rise buildings in the area.
The municipality is also doing its bit via revamped planning that allows for these new structures by either tearing down existing buildings or adding additional floors to one- and two-story buildings.
Shaul Assoulin, manager-owner of Remax Place real estate, told Metro: “The municipality’s urban plan for the Montefiore Quarter is a hybrid one. It wants to recreate the model pioneered in the Diamond Exchange area, which means modern small- and medium-sized enterprises existing side by side with residential properties.”
This is becoming very popular with town planners in North America and Europe: a more or less self-contained area where the residents live in close proximity to their workplaces, thereby easing transport problems, primarily traffic congestion.
Of course there is a difference between the Diamond Exchange compound and Montefiore. The former is the domain of the very rich – diamond merchants and hi-tech financiers. The apartments built there have been adapted to their needs; they tend to be large and spacious, with a corresponding price tag.
Montefiore, in contrast, is the domain of artisans and small businessmen, and the dwellings built there are adapted to their needs.
Future access to the area will be greatly improved. The municipality is planning a bridge which will span the Ayalon and connect the Yigal Allon Route, a major Tel Aviv artery, to the Montefiore Quarter.
Beni Lazar of the Anglo-Saxon real estate agency, which covers the area, is very upbeat about the real-estate prospects of Montefiore: “Montefiore is considered the abode of small businesses, but in the past few years there has been a population shift. As the veteran residents die out, young people are moving in.
This is practically central Tel Aviv, and both real-estate prices and rentals are low. The influx of young people is also attracting developers, who are building relatively small, low-cost apartments adapted to the needs of young newlyweds or singles.
Lazar believes that the demand for residential real estate will push up prices and gradually push out businesses such as carpentry shops, printers, ironmongers and garages. Office buildings and some commercial enterprises will remain, but the area will be more residential.
Most experts believe that demand for housing in the area will increase and developers will be only too happy to oblige accordingly. In the meantime, the area is slowly acquiring a “Soho-like” look, with restaurants and pubs opening on a regular basis.
The average new apartment being built comprises two to three rooms, with a floor area of from 45 to 70 square meters. These apartments have double parking spaces and terraces.
There are also duplex or penthouse apartments on the top floor.
Average prices for these new apartments are NIS 1.2 million for two-room apartments and NIS 1.5m. for three room apartments; while an average penthouse or duplex costs NIS 2m.
There are old apartments for sale with high ceilings and old, hand painted tiles.
The floor area varies between 60 to 90 sq.m., and the cost is NIS 1.9m. at the most.