Today Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that the blue line of the light rail will be routed through Emek Refaim as originally planned. After months of countless meetings, deliberation, and petitions, the decision was made through careful consideration by the municipality.
In his statement, Mr. Barkat called the light rail not only a boon for the aesthetics of the street, but for the businesses that line it. Like the red line before it, the train is expected to benefit all residents through reduced pollution and increased safety.
Barkat went on to promise that the construction of the line will be completed in stages, ensuring as few interruptions as possible. An open dialogue will be kept with the businesses, enabling them to prepare for interruptions and share solutions.
The historic courtyard neighborhood of Ohel Shlomo, characterized by its colorful outer wall and proximity to the Mahane Yehuda Market, has been immune to the gentrification of Yafo Street for decades. Much like the neighboring Batei Saidoff, however, the depressed location is about to undergo its biggest change since the late 1800s.
With an eye towards the future and an appreciation for the past, Israeli architecture firm o2a Studio envisions the site with its historical buildings preserved and the addition of 200 new residential units of varying size (11,700 square meters total). Commercial space will line the ground floor, overlooking an open courtyard.
Further down the road, o2a Studio has designed an 8-storey residential building. The project, known as The Jaffa Street Residences, features 56 apartments and ground-level commercial space contained in a 4,500 square meter building.
Unlike the aforementioned Ohel Shlomo project, a portion of the outer gate will be preserved. Additionally, the building will include smaller (45 square meter), more affordable apartments.
The plans for both projects were submitted last year and are undergoing the municipal approval process.
Zion Square, the focal point of the cultural life of downtown Jerusalem, is getting a redesign. Today Maya Atidia, Maayan Tokkie-Carmel, and Tamir Manzur-Carmel were announced as the winners of a contest which challenged Jerusalem-based architects to recreate the space.
The plan, which they refer to as “Urban Forest Clearing,” will add trees and seating to the open square, making it more temperate and pleasant. Though it may seem simple, the design will allow for the square to continue be used for large events.
The Red Line of the Jerusalem Light Rail is, by most counts, a success. Research by the Jerusalem Transport Master Plan (JTMT) demonstrates that not only has the light rail been a boon for the downtown area, but that it is also slowly changing how residents approach transportation throughout the city.
Just two years after beginning operation in 2011, the number of daily passengers on the Red Line grew from an average of 100,000 to 140,000. Today more than 150,000 passengers use the train daily and an impressive 15% of riders report that they no longer use their private vehicles. This result is considered high.
Additionally, air quality in the area has been so vastly improved that carbon monoxide emissions have dropped from 500 parts per million to fewer than 100 parts per million. Astoundingly, pollution fell to such negligible levels that monitoring was deemed unnecessary.
This is good news for pedestrians, whose numbers increased by 11% between 2011 and 2012 and for the businesses that are now thriving due to increased foot traffic. Expansion of the light rail, and specifically of the Red Line, is not only logical, it’s natural.
Work on the extension is already visible on the roads leading up to Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem and the planned final terminal station is being built alongside a new inpatient building. The rail will be integrated along the narrow route through new infrastructure when necessary (video below).
Construction is expected to last for nearly five years and is being funded as part of a government budget of 25 billion shekels set aside for the Jerusalem Light Rail network, which includes the Blue and Green lines.