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Tel Aviv Port Transformation

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Tel Aviv Port Transformation & RenewalBy Ilan Shchori

It’s hard to imagine that one of the city’s most striking and popular centers for commerce dining and fun the old Tel Aviv Port compound, stood practically derelict just seven years ago.

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Tel Aviv Port


It’s hard to imagine that one of the city’s most striking and popular centers for commerce dining and fun the old Tel Aviv Port compound, stood practically derelict just seven years ago, a veritable urban wasteland that served as a nighttime magnet for prostitution and drugs and was populated during the day by shops selling ceramic tiles and plumbing and bathroom supplies.

 

The revolutionary transformation to the area and the change of its image came about after architect Orna Angel was appointed general manager of the Marine Trust Company, the joint municipal and governmental corporation that is the port area’s owner. She, together with the Municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and a staff of senior architects, formulated the vision for a new look for the port. The implementation is clearly visible now and is a faithful reflection of their dream for “a newly designed Tel Aviv Port that would serve as a venue for a variety of leisure-time activities - entertainment, culture, sports, music, shopping, food and creativity.” At first, tens of millions of shekels were invested at first in renewing the entire infrastructure of the port area, as sewage, water, electricity, communications lighting, gas, Wi-Fi, rubbish disposals drainage and other systems were either upgraded or installed. Then, in 2002, with the new infrastructure already in place, new commercial enterprises in renovated buildings throughout the port began to open their doors for business. At first, the rent they paid was only token, to establish a presence, so to speak, but little by little, as more and more entrepreneurs began to realize the enormous potential, rents increased, and as a result of this development the corporation had additional funds to invest in further expanding its renovations activities and nowadays, about 100 different commercial establishments operate a compound of about 22.5 acres: restaurants; fashion boutiques, and specialty shops. As part of the refurbishing effort, Israel’s largest wooden deck was laid down in the northern part of the port and later expanded southwards as well, over an area of 14,000 square meters, designed in a wavy patter that drew inspiration from the undulating sand dunes upon which the young city of Tel Aviv had been established. This magnificent seaside promenade has become one of Tel Aviv’s most popular hangouts, and on weekends in particular it is so crowded, that it’s nearly impossible to see the ground. People flock to the port to enjoy the ambience, the scenery and the action, and it has also become the most popular area in the city for bicycle riders.

 

Opened with great fanfare in 1936 as a result of strikes by Arab workers that shut down the port in Jaffa and the fears of municipality officials that such activities could serve in the future as well as a stranglehold on the city, the Tel Aviv Port remained fully operational for no more than three years, when the outbreak of World War II brought activities there to a virtual standstill. An unsuccessful post-war attempt was made to return the port to activities, but the dearth of shipping during that period, caused this project to flop, and during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the port area was used as a supply center for equipment and weapons that were distributed to Jewish forces. Later, it operated on a partial; basis for a number of years, but it was officially closed by the government in 1965, after the Port of Ashdod had been inaugurated.

 


Walks in the Area


A number of interesting walks with stops at sites of interest and importance to the development of Tel Aviv and also Israel can be enjoyed in the area of the old port. The old wharf is located near the port entrance, just opposite the main Yordei Hasira Street gate, which operated during the 1930’s. Walk along the old wharf, look at the impressive entrance that was built as part of the marina, and at the breakwaters some distance away. Then return to the entrance area and stroll through the renovated parts of the port, comprised of large old bonded warehouses that are accommodated nowadays by impressive fashion houses, restaurants and cafes. A short walk north will take you to the new wooden deck. Continue north for about 300 meters more and you will reach the Yarkon Estuary, one of Tel Aviv’s most unique sites, where the Yarkon River meets the Mediterranean Sea.

 

The footbridge there, which connects the old Reading power station to the Tel Aviv Port, replaced an earlier bridge, functioned until the 1970’s as a bridge for vehicular traffic. It is known as Wauchope Bridge, in honor of British High Commissioner to Palestine and Transjordan Arthur Wauchope between 1931 and 1938, during the time of the British Mandate. Cross the bridge and immediately you will notice a marble statue to your left. It was erected by British and Australian troops in 1917 to mark their crossing of the Yarkon when the Land of Israel was captured from the Ottoman Turks during World War I. Currently, this area of the city is undergoing renovations.

Also of interest here are the excavations at a tel (Tel Kudadi), from biblical times. Situated on the northern banks of the Yarkon River, it was first excavated in 1937, and the remains of two impressive Iron Age fortresses have been unearthed there.

 

Especially if an art exhibition is on display - something that happens on an irregular basis from time to time - enter Reading’s old turbine room. Reading, situated opposite the statue and the tel, was Tel Aviv’s very first large hydro-electric power station. It was established in 1937 and used Yarkon River water to cool its turbines. The site’s turbine room is used nowadays to house temporary art exhibitions, which take place there from time to time.

 

Cross back over the bridge and continue south for about 50 meters, in the direction of Maccabi Stadium, Israel’s first large sports stadium, which was constructed in 1932 to host competitions for the first Maccabi “Jewish Olympics games. It was built on sand dunes provided by the British mandatory government and it could accommodate approximately 5000 seated spectators and about 15,000 standees.

 

A short five-minute walk to the south will bring you to Tel Aviv’s old fairgrounds, where the “Oriental Exhibition,” one of the city’s major attractions at the time, was inaugurated in 1934 to mark the 50th anniversary of the city of Tel Aviv, with the participation of exhibitors from 30 countries. The entrance square to the fairgrounds is called Plumer Square, in honor of Herbert Plumer, another British high commissioner who, like Wauchope, harbored positive sentiments to Jewish interests in Mandatory Palestine. A statue of a flying camel, the logo for the 1934 fair, adorns a flagpole standing at the main entrance.

 



The Article courtesy of Ilan Shchori, a journalist who has been researching the history of Tel Aviv for many years. http://www.mytelaviv.co.il

e-mail: ilan@mytelaviv.co.il




 

 

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