Tag Archives: Tel Aviv

Sky-Scraping Prices in Tel Aviv

by Merav Levkowitz

HGTV recently aired the Israel episode of House Hunters International, where two Chicago sisters with a $500,000 budget searched for an apartment in Tel Aviv. After being shown the three options available, they found themselves seriously debating between a rooftop duplex that was smaller than what they were looking for and a vintage apartment that was in such bad shape it would require at least $100,000 worth of repairs.

Ultimately they chose the duplex, but the fact that a crumbling apartment with a price tag of half a million dollars was featured hints at the real estate markets in what was recently declared the nineteenth most expensive city in the world—a whole ten spots ahead of New York!  How did Tel Aviv become so expensive?

For one reason, on a broad economic scale, Israel’s banking practices tend to be more conservative than those in the U.S. while its financial sector is not completely entangled in the mortgage market.  In Israeli real estate there is a trend of larger down payments and less reliance on mortgages. As a result, Israel managed to maintain relative stability amid the heat of the global economic crisis. The boom in real estate prices has been driven by low interest rates and a shortage in housing.  So while much skepticism lingers toward real estate in the United States in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, real estate prices in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv, remain on the rise.

The desirability of a Tel Aviv address is another reason for its robust real estate market.  Home to many high-tech companies and venture capitalists, the city pulses with energy, innovation, and life. Given its population of young, successful professionals working in casual, but demanding, start-up environments, the city is alive at all hours of the day. In fact, it is not uncommon to find traffic jams and packed cafés at 2 AM on most days of the week. Tel Aviv caters to a young, vibrant population with disposable incomes, few attachments—it is known as a “city of singles”—and hyperactive desires for movement and change. New bars and restaurants open daily, but it is also not unheard of for bar and nightclub owners to “close” their operations at the end of a season only to reopen shortly thereafter with new names and décor. Naturally, the proximity to the beach and the near-constant sunshine add vibrancy and a sense of frivolity, which draw many to the city.

One of the key reasons, though, for the continued real estate boom is that Israelis are not the only ones drawn to Tel Aviv. In recent years, there has been a great influx of foreigners, mostly French and American, buying up properties in the city.  “Absentee owners,” as they are often known, live overseas and come for occasional visits, leaving their apartments empty for most of the year. For some of them, owning property is a tangible display of support for Israel and a way to live as locals during their frequent visits. Ownership may also be a step in the gradual process toward aliyah (immigration to Israel). Regardless, these vacation-home buyers have altered the real estate scene in Israel’s biggest cities and particularly in Tel Aviv. With their deep pockets and few demands, including a willingness to wait longer for construction to be complete, these buyers have garnered the attention of luxury developers. Consequently, there is a new growth of highly-priced developments, which remain out-of-reach for many Israelis. At the same time, foreigners’ purchases have removed properties from the markets. Many absentee owners leave properties empty throughout the year in order to maintain the flexibility of coming and going as they please and to avoid dealing with tenants from abroad, but by doing so, they further decrease the supply of rentals available.

Rising real estate prices in Tel Aviv are both a source of pain and pride in Israel. On one hand, locals are resentful about the housing shortages and rising prices. Looking forward, there are also worries about an imminent housing bubble burst and the consequences it might induce. On the other hand, according to Ynet News, “for Israel, where high-tech and science are booming businesses, the property price spike is the latest claim to fame,” especially given the current global economic climate. Still, this facet of “pride” does little for the local consumer simply looking for a home. Is he or she doomed to paying a million dollars just to “live in a doghouse?” This facetious video clip, making the rounds among Israelis, suggests they might.

Happy Birthday, Tel Aviv

tel-aviv

Early into the morning people were still partying in one of the largest celebrations Tel Aviv has ever seen. Over the weekend the city celebrated its 100th anniversary, even in the midst of war. In Yitzhak Rabin Square, thousands of people celebrated with concerts, dancing and the explosions of fireworks, instead of the blasts of bombs. Celebrations included a birthday bash on Friday, which kicked off the expected year-long festivities including concerts, art, tours, cultural events and many parties. The Tel Aviv marathon, which was retired for fifteen years, will be revved up again for the celebration with a run around the city and its historic landmarks. Events to commemorate Tel Aviv’s anniversary also took place in New York, Paris, Copenhagen and Vienna and will continue through this year.


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Crazy New Tel-Aviv Port

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

Not sure how we missed this, but we recently saw some pics of the new Tel-Aviv port, designed by Israeli firm Mayslits Kassif Architects in collaboration with Galila Yavin, and it blew us away. We caught the pics, of all places, on Kanye West’s blog. West and worldarchitecturenews.com had this to say:

Situated on one of Israel’s most breathtaking waterfronts, the Tel Aviv Port was plagued with neglect since 1965, when its primary use as an operational docking port was abandoned. The recently completed public space development project by Mayslits Kassif Architects, managed to restore this unique part of the city, and turn it into a prominent, vivacious urban landmark.

The architects saw the Tel Aviv Port project as an opportunity to construct a public space which challenges the common contrast between private and public development, and suggests a new agenda of hospitality for collective open spaces.

The design introduces an extensive undulating, non-hierarchical surface that acts both as a reflection of the mythical dunes on which the port was historically built, and as an open invitation to free interpretations and unstructured activities. Various public, political and social initiatives are now drawn to this unique urban platform, indicating the project’s success in reinventing the port as a vibrant public sphere.

You have to love the headline to West’s post. Somehow “Peep the Ground!” feels aptly Israeli for some reason.

ITM readers, have you seen the port since it opened? Or if not, what do you think of the photos?

Photos by Kanye West via Mayslits Kassif Architects

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“Beautiful Israel:” See it Here

One of the cheesier keepsakes I’ve ever bought in Israel came, not surprisingly, from a touristy shop on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street. A fridge magnet, it shows a zebra on a grassy veldt under the slogan, “Hello from Israel!” Of course there are no zebras in the Holy Land, but you had to stop and think there for a minute, didn’t you?
A cliche?

A cliche?

Aside from gags like that, you’d be hard-pressed to find visual surprises among Israel posters, souvenirs and postcards. You can probably picture most of them without even springing for a stamp: sober depictions of daveners at the Wailing Wall; shots of dusty ruins; sunset glinting off the Dome of the Rock; cartoon maps dotted with little icons showing camels in the Negev and snorkelers in the Red Sea and so on. Flip through a handful and you start to feel faintly gritty and sun-baked, like the end of a hike in the desert.

Here’s what you won’t see on the racks in Israeli tourist shops:

Delicious Israel

Hila Weiss: Delicious Israel

These are the tastes and sights that populate Israel today—its markets, its landscapes and especially its cuisine, where a heightened attention to quality and freshness rivals western Europe. And they are the visual building blocks of Hila Weiss, a 32-year-old photo stylist and photographer living in Tel Aviv.

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