Focus on Zichron Ya'acov

Shikun Ovdim is building a new neighborhood that will comprise 750 housing units for approximately 3,000 people.

zichron 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
zichron 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Zichron Ya'acov is one of the better known urban entities in Israel, and in that perhaps is its charm. It was founded in 1883 by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, as one of five agricultural settlements in the area, and named after his father. Unlike some other settlements established by the baron, such as Hadera, Rishon Lezion and Rehovot, which became teeming metropolises, Zichron has retained its rural nature. But will it say this way? There are signs that high-rise buildings are creeping in and threatening to destroy the rural charm. Mayor Eli Abutbul wants Zichron to remain as it is, but faces increasing demand for housing in the area. Most of the current dwellings are single-family or semi-detached homes. Apartment buildings are rare and, where they exist, are rarely more than two stories high. But things may be changing because Shikun Ovdim is building a new neighborhood called Halomot Zichron Ya'acov (The Dreams of Zichron Ya'acov). It will comprise 750 housing units for approximately 3,000 people, or about 16 percent of Zichron's present population. To Shikun Ovdim's credit, it has taken great pains and spared no expense to design and construct apartment buildings that blend into the existing environment; terraced apartments, a lot of green areas, etc. The residents of the quarter will have a high quality of life because the new apartments are expertly designed and the execution is first-class. But this does not change the fact that it clashes with Zichron Ya'acov's rural character. The mayor has hinted that Halomot Zichron Ya'acov will be the first and the last of its kind, which means that those apartments will increase in value. Zichron Ya'acov is a small town of 19,000 that gradually grew around the old agricultural settlement. It is based on various architectural styles with one thing in common - the dwellings are low-rise and the vast majority are single-family homes. One of the charms of Zichron is the old part of town with its large numbers of buildings built to house the first settlers. These houses reflected the economic standing of the owners. If they were relatively well-to-do farmers, this was reflected in the size and style of their houses; if not, the houses were small and cramped. Any one lucky to find such a house with a large, say, 1,000-square-meter plot, will be asked to pay more than $1 million. Restoration does not come cheap, but the results can be stunning. But on the rare occasions these come on the market, they are usually snapped up by developers, who then tear down the existing building and build two or three semi-detached units that each sell for from $600,000 to $750,000. Micha Adler, the manger of Re/Max Baron, one of the leading real estate operators in the town, told The Jerusalem Post: "Demand for real estate is brisk and prices are rising. In the past two years demand has been steadily rising as would-be home owners discover the delights of Zichron. It is a pleasant rural town. Situated atop a mountain, the climate is excellent and it has stunning views: to the west the Mediterranean Sea, to the east the rolling vistas of the Alona Forest and Hurshan Mountain Natural Parks, and in the distance the Naftali mountain range. Zichron has an excellent location and, as every knows, location in real estate is everything." Prices in Zichron may be rising, but they are still much less than what one would be asked to pay in Tel Aviv or Givatayim. A single-family home with a plot of up to 500 sq. m. can cost about NIS 2m. In the new Halomot Zichron estate, an average 128-sq.-m. terraced apartments costs NIS 1.1m.