Friday, January 7, 2011

Dolphinarium to be razed at last

The seaside space occupied by the neglected remains of the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium will be developed into a new boardwalk, the city decided yesterday. The Tel Aviv Planning and Building Council reapproved the plan to renovate the site into a public space but the city will need to buy out an 18.5-dunam area from a private lease-holder, Yossi Buchman.

In exchange, Buchman will get a 12-dunam area near the Hassan Bek Mosque on Hayarkon Street, on which he can build two residential towers and a hotel: 48,000 square meters in total built-up area, according to approved rights for the spot. Buchman is being asked to pay 31.5% of the difference in value between the land by the mosque and the land on which the remains of the Dolphinarium are situated. An appraisal dating from 2008 priced the land by Hassan Bek at NIS 500 million, while the value of the Dolphinarium land was priced at NIS 80 million. Buchman will have to pony up more than NIS 120 million, not including betterment tax.

The plan to develop the defunct Dolphinarium has been held up for more than 10 years, in part because the municipality, Buchman and the Israel Lands Administration couldn't agree on money issues. As similar plan won approval in 2002, but was torpedoed by continued haggling. Observers in the real estate sector think it may take around two years for the land deal to go through. During that time the city will continue to negotiate with Buchman over evacuating and razing the Dolphinarium.

The Dolphinarium began its life as a dolphin-centric aquarium, but was abandoned in the mid-1980s as the company running the venue stumbled into financial trouble. It was acquired by Buchman's company, Sha'ar LeYisrael. The Dolphinarium building consists of one underground story and two above ground, some of which is used for entertainment venues and some of which has been abandoned. The city of Tel Aviv wants to create a continuous boardwalk from Bat Yam to Herzliya. The Dolphinarium building was the only obstacle after certain buildings belonging to the Gordon Swimming Pool and the Reading Power Station were razed. Peer Weisner, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv and acting chairman of the local Planning and Building Committee, said he opposes the deal. "The city of Tel Aviv should revert to its previous resolution and expropriate the land from [Buchman]," Weisner said.

The Dolphinarium has an infamous reputation in Israel, after a suicide bomber attacked a line of party-goers outside a club there on June 1, 2001, killing 21 and injuring 132. Most of the casualties were immigrant teenagers from the former Soviet Union.

Source The Marker

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