Azrieli Group Ltd. (TASE: AZRG) is about to sign an agreement to buy the Eilat central bus station for NIS 280 million, sources inform "Globes." Azrieli plans building a 20,000 square meter shopping mall on the site, plans for which have been put forward by the current owners Jackie Ben-Zaken, Haim Revivo and Avraham Nanikashvili.
After the nearby airport is moved out of Eilat and restriction on the building height on the lot is eased, Azrieli plans increasing its building rights to add office space above the mall. The current income producing property yields NIS 3.4 million in rent annually from Egged for the bus station and shopkeepers in the surrounding stores.
The bus station, covering 42,000 square meters is on Tamarim Boulevard, slightly inland to the west from the airport. Ben-Zaken and his partners bought the bus station in 2009 from Nitzba for NIS 33 million and prepared plans for a 15,000 square meter mall.
The plan was opposed by The Phoenix Holdings Ltd. (TASE: PHOE1;PHOE5), which owns the Mul Hayam mall and other shopkeepers who claimed that the Red Sea resort is already saturated with retail stores and feared intensified competition. The regional planning and building committee approved the plan as did the National Planning and Building Commission after an appeal was lodged in 2013 and the Beersheva District Court in 2015.
Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi said, "I don't know about any deal being closed but Azrieli Group has been interested in investing in Eilat for a long time including on the land being vacated by the airport, and wqe are encouraging quality companies like Azrieli to invest in Eilat and we are delighted for them to do so."
Both Azrieli Group and Jackie Ben-Zaken declined to comment on the matter.