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Inside Jerusalems Azrieli Malcha Mall.(Photo by: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/יהודית גרעין-כל)
Azrieli plans major expansion for Jerusalem mall
This order is part of a growing trend in recent years of diverting commerce from indoor shopping malls to urban street commerce.
The trend towards strengthening urban trade and reducing commercial space in shopping malls is also reaching Israel’s most successful shopping mall. The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Commission in the Planning Administration, headed by acting chairperson Shira Talmi Babay, deposited for public objections on Tuesday a plan for expanding the Malcha Mall, owned by Azrieli Group Ltd. (TASE: AZRG), in southwestern Jerusalem.

For many years, the Azrieli Group has sought to expand the commercial space in the existing mall, one of the most successful malls in Israel. Already in the initial discussions about the plan, however, the District Planning and Building Commission ordered Azrieli to make substantial changes in its plan by substantially cutting the amount of commercial space it was seeking to add to the mall, and moving most of the added space outside.

This order is part of a growing trend in recent years of diverting commerce from indoor shopping malls to urban street commerce.
In the plan approved for deposit by the District Planning and Building Commission, Azrieli will for the first time establish commercial space with an external façade towards the street, and will build a promenade along which thousands of square meters of commercial space can be built.

In addition, the plan includes a 21-floor office tower above the mall with 30,000 square meters of space and a public building that will be given to the Jerusalem municipality.

The Malcha Mall, which covers 50 dunams, currently contains 36,000 square meters. In January 2018, Azrieli completed an NIS 80 million two-year comprehensive renovation of the public space in the mall.

The deposited plan includes 7,500 square meters of additional space within the mall and 4,200 square meters of space outside the mall to be built along the street and the new promenade that will be built. 6,000 square meters of business space will be built within the mall.

Also approved was construction of a sheltered housing building with 300 housing units, four nursing departments, and 40,000 square meters of space. The Azrieli Group has been trying to build up its sheltered accommodations business in recent years.

The approved space is far less than the commercial space that the Azrieli Group wanted to add to the existing mall, while the added business space approved was not requested at all. The District Planning and Building Commission supports construction of commercial space along the street to replace the side walls surrounding the existing mall.

In addition, since the mall is close to the approved route of the Green Line of the light rail on which construction work is scheduled to begin in 2019, it was decided to reduce the number of parking spaces for the added commercial and offices space from one parking space for each 22 square meters in the mall at present to one parking space for each 280 square meters.

The deposited plan is designed to correct a number of weaknesses in southwestern Jerusalem, especially the separation between different centers in the area, such as Teddy Kollek Soccer Stadium, the Payis basketball arena. the Olympic pool and the Malcha Mall. The promenade, which is one of the public obligations assumed by the Azrieli Group, is designed to connect these parts with the Malcha neighborhood on the west and Begin Road on the east.

The Azrieli Group can also build urban commercial space along the promenade. Furthermore, one of the District Planning and Building Commission’s goals is to turn the area, which can currently be reached mainly by private vehicle, into a public transportation-oriented area.

Jerusalem City Councilperson Ofer Berkovich, a member of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Commission, said, “The plan is a proper one that will allow construction of sheltered housing for senior citizens and create 40,000 square meters of modern business and office space. I demanded the construction of the first business space according to the public interest.

The commercial space should be reduced, given our concept of strengthening the town center, Talpiot, and streets such as Emek Refaim and Derekh Beit Lehem. Commerce should take place in city streets. I demanded parking spaces according to standard for people coming to the area until the light railway is built and the allocation of some of the public buildings for the benefit of residents of Malcha so that they will benefit from the project.” (Globes/TNS)

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