In 2006, US companies Crescent Heights, owned by Sonny Kahn, and the Trump group, owned by current US President Donald Trump, bought a 15-dunam (3.75-acre) lot at Elite Junction in Ramat Gan for $44 million. The lot was the site of the Elite chocolate factory. The seller was Strauss Group Ltd. (TASE:STRS). The buyers planned to build a 70-storey tower there, to be called the Trump Plaza Tower.
A few months after the deal was signed, the Elite factory was removed from the site. A year later, Azorim Investment, Development and Construction Ltd. (TASE: AZRM) and a group of diamond trading investors bought the lot from the US companies for $80 million, almost double the amount paid 18 months previously. They planned a single 74-storey tower for the lot that would be the highest tower in Israel.
The ensuing global economic crisis and weakness in the office space market interfered with the plans, however, and Azorim decided to freeze the plan. In 2012, the Ramat Gan Local Planning and Building Commission approved another version of the plan with two towers: a residential tower with 60 storeys and 296 apartments, to be constructed by Azorim, and a 25-storey, 25,000-square meter office tower to be built by the diamond traders. The Local Planning and Building Commission gave final approval for a residential tower with 65 storeys and 338 apartments in 2014, which will make it the tallest tower in Israel.
Azorim began marketing the residential tower, sold dozens of apartments in it, and went ahead with the processes for obtaining a building permit. In 2015, however, the company canceled the sale agreements signed by the apartment buyers two years earlier, announcing that due to delays in obtaining the building permit, for which the Ramat Gan municipality bore the main responsibility, the sale agreements were no longer valid. The municipality claimed that Azorim was responsible for the delays, and some of the buyers with whom Azorim had canceled sales agreements filed suit against the company.
In a recent hearing by the Ramat Gan Local Planning and Building Commission, headed by Avivit Maor Nimrodi, another version of the plan designed by Yasky Mor Sivan Architects, which also covered construction around the residential tower, was approved. This plan includes two triangular towers with rounded corners - a business tower on Jabotinski Street, and a residential tower on Arlozorov Street. The ground floor of both towers will consist of commercial space.
The residential tower will have 56 floors above technical floors, with a total of 60 storeys and 355 housing units: 296 apartments under the approved urban building plan, plus 59 more apartments under a concession allowing an increase of up to 20% of the existing number of apartments.
The office tower will have 37 floors above technical floors - a total of 41 storeys. 1,000 square meters of the office tower will be allocated for public space on the entry floor. In return for approval of the additional 59 apartments in the residential tower, the developers will allocate a further 1,000 square meters for public space in either the office towers or one of the first five storeys in the residential tower.
The developers will also be required to renovate and preserve the Elite building at the corner of Jabotinski and Arlozorov Streets, which has been marked for preservation. The plan ensures that a kindergarten and school will be erected in the public space in the Elite tower and the other planned towers.
Is Azorim planning to obtain a building permit and to build the tower this time? The company said, "The company is in the clarification processes with the municipality, and a building permit has not yet been received. Once these processes are completed, the company will consider its further steps on the site."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on May 22, 2017
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