Skyscrapers dotting Tel Aviv landscape

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TEL AVIV — Skyscrapers, big, tall and imposing, have defined Manhattan's skyline since the turn of the century. They multiplied available office space and made it possible for 1.5 million people to live on a small island.

Now, as Israel's land reserves are running out, contractors are incorporating this American architectural phenomenon into the local landscape.

The latest trend in the Israeli real estate market are skyscrapers that accommodate residential apartments and offices. Contractors plan to construct neighborhoods of tall buildings that will include offices and apartments, either in the same or adjoining buildings, making it possible for businesspeople to leave their cars in the garage and commute to work by elevator or walk.

"First and foremost, [skyscrapers] are a good way of taking full advantage of very expensive land in the center of cities and creating business areas or high-standard residential areas," said Meir Nahshon, general manager of the Anglo Saxon real estate chain.

"Their second aim is to create green areas and public parks. In certain places, construction of low-rise buildings takes up a lot of land at the expense of green and other public areas."

During the next few years Tel-Aviv's skyline is expected to change significantly as the Kirya, Netivai Ayalon and Sderot Rothschild areas fill up with skyscrapers. The change is in line with Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Milo's plans to attract another 100,000 residents to the city by the end of the decade.

The municipality has plans to grant contractors building rights of up to 1,000 percent compared with the current 450 percent. While there are no developments that have received such high building rights, 1,000 percent is equivalent to a 100-story building. The highest building in the country now is a 50-story office tower in Ramat Gan.

Other cities have also started to encourage construction of skyscrapers. Several months ago the Ramat Gan municipality approved construction of five 30-story buildings that will include residential, office and commercial space.

There are skyscrapers of residential and office use also slated for the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, the Negev city of Beersheba and the southern port city of Ashdod. There is even a move toward skyscrapers in Jerusalem. The municipality recently approved construction of a high-rise on the Labor Party's plot on Jaffa Street downtown –the first of many slated for the capital.

Unlike other western countries, construction of skyscrapers in Israel only recently gained acceptance. The delay is primarily due to reluctance by planning and building authorities to approve skyscrapers for fear they would create slums.

However, in cities such as New York, skyscraper apartments often provide plush living. Many have underground garages, doormen, efficient elevators, posh lobbies, storerooms, washing and drying rooms, and mini country clubs, plus maintenance companies.

Real estate experts say Israel's rising crime rate and the country's aging population have increased the demand for such buildings.

The Tel Aviv Foundation plans to construct 14 buildings and three public gardens as part of an $18.5 million development. The foundation plans to invest $2 million to expand the city's public music library on Bialik Square.

Another $3 million will be invested in an arts college, $2 million in an international chess complex, $1.5 million in a senior citizens center in Yad Eliyahu and $1.5 million in a new senior citizens division in the center in Givat Ha'slosha.

Zipha has started construction of the Karmei-Binyamina development, the largest residential development in Binyamina. The development will involve construction of 125 houses.

It will include single villas and semi-detached two-story cottages ranging from $190,000 to $310,000 in price.