Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv, has a Mediterranean ambience. It has garnered favor with overseas buyers, especially from France, who want a home with a sea view, at a moderate price compared to similar homes in Tel Aviv or Netanya. "An average three-bedroom apartment [in Bat Yam] with a sea view costs NIS 2.3 million," Charlie Biton, the Re/Max concessionaire in Bat Yam, told The Jerusalem Post. "A similar property in Tel Aviv costs NIS 5 million." "There is much demand for properties with sea views from French Jews of North African origin who have family in Bat Yam, and this tends to drive prices up," he said. "Despite the current economic downturn, prices of properties facing the sea are inching upwards. In the summer months, apartments with sea views can rent for â‚¬4,200 a month." The strong demand for real estate along the shore has affected prices in other parts of town. In the new developments going up in the city, a three-bedroom apartment costs an average of NIS 1.4 million, Biton said. The popularity of Bat Yam is relatively new; up until five years ago, it had a reputation as a high-crime area. Many attribute the town's improved fortunes to Mayor Shlomi Lahiani, who ran in 2003 on an "urban renewal" platform and was re-elected in November. Now the streets are cleaner and safer, and the parks are well-maintained. With the sea beckoning, Bat Yam is now considered an attractive place to live. Lahiani has done a great job, Ya'acov Atrakchi, general manager of Aura-Israel Investment, told the Post. "Bat Yam has become a real-estate developer's paradise," he said. "It is adjacent to Tel Aviv-Jaffa, plots of land are available for building - and at prices that are much lower than in Tel Aviv." Bat Yam had a major advantage over other Tel Aviv suburbs, such as Holon and Petah Tikva, because it is on the shore, Atrakchi said. Aura-Israel is building a 14-story, 42-apartment residential tower in a central area of the city. While most of the other new high-rise residential buildings are going up in the south of the city, Rothschild Tower is in the center. The developers were lucky to find a large plot of land available, the site of the old Rothschild Cinema, which was torn down to make room for the new building, Atrakchi said.