Luxury Apartments in Jerusalem - Israel is not the Next Florida

Copyright 2011 by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info

The Serial Tourist's Guide to Living in Jerusalem

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Real estate developers in Jerusalem have been tearing down historic buildings for years to make room housing, it's not as if there's a surplus of space waiting to be exploited in the city. However, there are historic buildings and there are historic buildings. One such building was the Tannous Brothers building, built in the 1930's. My sister showed me the building in the 1980's. To quote from the historical plaque "This building, under the command of Nataniel Lorch, served as a front line post. On the night of May 18th, 1948, a unit of the Jerusalem-Etzioni Brigade set out from the Tannous Bros. building in an unsuccessful attempt to free the besieged Jewish Quarter in the Old City. From 1948 until the Six Day War in June 1967, the Tannous Bros. building stood on the armistice line established between the Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel During this period, families of new immigrants to Israel inhabited the building which was continuously exposed to sniper fire from the Jordanian Legion, stationed on the Old City wall. Until it's demolition in 1990, this building was a symbol of a divided city." Now, the shot-up stones bearing the name of the building decorate the gate of one of Jerusalem's most luxurious apartment projects.
The building site which afforded such an irresistable target to the Jordanian Legion stationed on the Old City walls now offers some well heeled buyers a million dollar view of the Old City. From the mirpessot (balcony patios) of these apartments in David's Village, the owners can drink coffee as the sun rises over the City of David (You'd have to buy on the other side of the Old City to watch the sun set on it). Since there are no streets for automobiles within this or any other luxury housing development I've seen, it's about as quiet as Jerusalem gets, at least when all the nearby construction winds up. I was generous in shooting a picture from this angle, showing some windows with the shutters open, but it is Hannuka this week, meaning there are a few signs of life about the place. When I was walking on King George last week, I overheard a single sentence uttered by a well dressed woman in her 30's to her male companion as they passed me in the opposite direction. "Israel is the next Florida," she told him. There are a couple weeks in the winter where staying in upscale Jerusalem neighborhoods could give an American that impression, and that's a problem for the city.
Because Israel is not the next Florida, and the snow birds who migrate South every winter for six months and a day to warm up and change their tax residence don't have any significant counterpart in part-time Israel residents. The foreign Jews who buy luxury housing in Jerusalem, mainly Americans, French and Canadians, tend to come for the holidays, and that's about it. Large portions of the luxury complexes I've seen are shuttered with bolts rather than latches, and armed security keeps an eye on the place so nobody breaks in and steals the flat screen TV's A whole stretch of Jerusalem along the walls of the Old City has been turned into a 50 week a year ghost town, with little more than empty luxury apartments and a giant underground parking lot that's closed nights and weekends.People still walk through the area on their way to the Jaffa Gate, but I've already had one woman tell me she won't walk through the most expensive real estate in Jerusalem at night because it's too spooky. There's no life in these projects most of the year, even hotels probably do more for a neighborhood than "investment real estate" that nobody rents out
Yemin Moshe is a little better than the newer luxury complexes. I don't know if it's because some Israelis or Olim bought there, because the units are occasionally rented out long term, or if they were just more affordable to start with. It's got a nice feel to it, the gardens look more natural than the "better than nature" gardens the big developers put in. Of course, they probably started as "better than nature" gardens a couple decades ago, but they've has a chance to wear in. Yemin Moshe is further from the Yafo gate than the other developments, but closer to the German Colony, or the Cotel, if you take the outer wall route. In all of these cases, the million dollar views come with million dollar plus price tags. I guess Israel and Florida share palm trees, citrus, and mild winter weather in common, but I wouldn't push the comparison much further. Well, I suppose in Florida they're eating up the Everglades to build new retirement communities for wealthy vacationers, but while many snow birds transition into year-round Florida residents, I don't see much of that happening in Jerusalem
Here's the latest luxury project going up right across from the Yafo gate. On the other side of this construction site is the wall of the Cold City along the Christian Quarter. The structure in the center of the picture that looks like a stone house is in fact a stone house, which I assume they are taking down. All of the stones have been numbered so the house can be reassembled in another location, and it that way, a little of Jerusalem's historic architecture is preserved. I suppose since I've only been watching the construction site for a month, there's an outside chance they took the house down to get it out of the way during the constructions of the bordering buildings, and now they're going to integrate it back into the site to give it a little class. There used to be a whole little neighborhood in this area, Mamilla it was called. The first apartments will be ready for occupancy in 2007. The development below is the Holyland project, luxury apartments across the street from the Jerusalem Mall at Malcha, where according to a taxi driver I rode by with, rich Israelis are buying in. He also said they have a health club in there that costs $800/month, even after you buy a million dollar apartment!

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