J'lem to build 200-bed Bezalel dorm in city center

Beit Agron, former home for foreign journalists, will be renovated, transformed to dormitory for arts and design students.

Beit Agron planned renovation 370 (photo credit: Jerusalem Municipality)
Beit Agron planned renovation 370
(photo credit: Jerusalem Municipality)
The building that used to be the old home for foreign journalists in Jerusalem will become a 200-bed dormitory to alleviate some of the housing shortage students face in the capital, the municipality announced on Sunday.
Construction to renovate Beit Agron – which previously housed many of the foreign bureaus for major newspapers – and create a dorm for Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design students will begin within a year.
The project is part of the municipality’s initiative to reinvigorate the city center.
Beit Agron is located in the heart of downtown, next to the restaurants and bars of the Nahalat Shiva area and across from the future Museum of Tolerance.
Two years ago in November 2010, the city announced that Bezalel would move back to the city center from its current campus on Mount Scopus.
The new campus, which will be located in between the municipality buildings and the Russian Compound, was originally slated to open for the 2014 school year – though that date will most likely be pushed back.
The dorms will have a mix of commercial and residential space with the possibility of adding dozens of units at later dates. Bezalel competed against the other Jerusalem universities for their students to live in the choice downtown location, and won a tender in 2011 to operate the dorms for at least a 25-year lease. The Shapir Group engineering and construction firm and Ma’ayan National Projects and Infrastructure won the tender to build the project.
“We see great strategic importance in giving students and young people the ability to live in the city,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
“Student dorms in the center of the city are another initiative to increase the amount of apartments for young people and at the same time revive the center of the city.”
Student complaints over lack of affordable housing was one of the main driving forces behind the tent protests during the summer of 2011.
Previously, Beit Agron was the home of the Government Press Office as well as many foreign bureaus. As newspapers closed their foreign bureaus, many of the remaining journalists moved to the Malha Technology Park. The GPO moved there last year as well.
Beit Agron was named for Gershon Agron, one of the founders of The Jerusalem Post.