Jaffa's comeback

Unique old houses opposite Jaffa Port with sea view can cost more than $5m.

Jaffa new 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jaffa new 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jaffa has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years. During the 400-odd years of Turkish rule it was by far the most important city in Palestine, as the only port in the region. When the British took over in 1917 it retained its premier position, but began to lose its prominence during the mid-30s when the port of Haifa was built and the economic center of gravity shifted north. After the War of Independence Jaffa became a slum and a backwater. Nearly all of the original Arab inhabitants left or were persuaded to leave and new immigrants were housed in the empty dwellings. From one of the most prosperous cities in Palestine it became the neglected poor relation of Tel Aviv in the new State of Israel. A change for the better started around 15 years ago as developers began to understand the real estate potential of Jaffa and the willingness of some to pay very high prices for new apartments there. Actually, the demand for expensive real estate is concentrated in Old Jaffa, as Arik Zablodovitch, sales manager of the "Rova" project, explained: "Historic places are back in fashion in the Western world. Developers are either restoring old historic buildings and adapting them to modern needs or are tearing down buildings of no historical or cultural importance and building new projects." These new projects retain the aura of the old neighborhood with "facades which blend with the surrounding urban scene, but they also include all the latest technologies and architectural design trends necessary for modern living," Zablodovitch said. "This trend is evident in such historic cities such as Barcelona, Venice, Toledo, Gibraltar and London. Old, derelict docks have been converted into modern stylish apartments." The municipality of Tel Aviv is spending large sums of money to regenerate the Old City, and has created a special department to take charge of the urban development of Jaffa called the "Mishlama." Gilad Peled, head of the Mishlama, told The Jerusalem Post, "Our main purpose is to upgrade educational facilities - including the Tel Aviv College - to upgrade the infrastructure, sewage, street lighting, gardening etc., to make Jaffa a better place to live in and to promote tourism." All these activities have a bearing on real estate, helping create rises in both demand and prices. In the past years there have been three large residential building projects of more than a 150 residential units each: the Andromeda Project, Jaffa Courts and the Rova, which will have 260 units when finished. The Rova is a closed residential estate being built in three stages. The first two stages have already been completed, with nearly all the apartments sold, while the third stage is under construction. Arik Shefer is the manager and proprietor of Nadlan Hayam Ha'tichon, which specializes in that part of Jaffa. "The high prices in the area reflect the high demand and limited supply. Unique old houses opposite the Jaffa Port with an unimpeded sea view on their own plot of land can cost more than $5 million, while a four-room apartment can cost over $500,000," Shefer said. No other large projects are in the works due to a scarcity of building space, but other, smaller projects have gotten off the ground, such as the Cassiopeia project, which when completed will have 23 apartments, and the Yehuda Ha'Yamit project, which will have 26. Developers who want to build in Jaffa face the challenges of finding an appropriate tract and convincing current residents to sell before they can move forward on a luxury building scheme. Certainly no easy task. But the profits for those developers who succeed in Jaffa are enticing many to join in the gold rush.