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Saudi prince looking to buy TA hotel
Haviv Rettig Gur
City engineer: "I don't know who owns what. What matters is the planning."
Plans by Saudi Prince Al-Walid bin Talal to build an eight-story hotel in Tel Aviv together with the Abulafia family of Jaffa are in their early stages. But too much publicity could doom the project. Bin Talal - the world's eighth-wealthiest man and the wealthiest Arab, according to Forbes - is eyeing a beachfront property facing the Opera Building on Herbert Samuel Road to build a 150-room, Oriental-style hotel. Bin Talal's regular architect, London-based Basil al-Bayati, is said to be in charge of planning for the project. Israel Gudovich, an Israeli architect who once was Tel Aviv's city engineer, said the plans were still in their very early stages. "We will know more in two weeks, when I meet with Basil al-Bayati in London," he told The Jerusalem Post Thursday. Gudovich said press coverage - "this Israeli excitement" which saw an item on the project make headlines in Yediot Aharonot's business section on Thursday - could scare the project away. City engineer Chezy Berkowitz confirmed that initial discussions had taken place, but said reports that architectural plans had been submitted to the municipality were incorrect. "No plans have been submitted for approval to planning committees," he told the Post , adding that the start of construction was months away. Regarding the Saudi connection, Berkowitz said: "I don't know who owns what. The municipality doesn't have any connection or control over the owners, just the planning." The land reportedly belongs to the Abulafia family. One city official told the Post that a "Mr. Abulafia" of Jaffa had come to the municipality to discuss plans, but he could not confirm if it was Hamis Abulafia, the owner of the land who was quoted by Yediot Aharonot as promising the deal would be "a big story." Hamis Abulafia did not return phone calls. Bayati could not be reached by press time.
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