After his election in 2008, Mayor Nir Barkat, in coordination with Michael Porter and Richard Florida, began working on a plan intended to dramatically change the economic development of Jerusalem. They came up with a proposal called Jerusalem 2020, the cornerstone of which is the Jerusalem Gateway Project.
The Jerusalem Gateway Project represents the largest and most ambitious urban renewal plan in the history of Jerusalem. With a proposed 24 towers, it will add 1.5 million square meters of office, hotel, convention, and retail space to the city entrance.
The new business district will not only transform the urban fabric of the area, it will change the standing of Jerusalem within Israel and throughout the world.
Construction of many of the buildings is already underway, with more to come. The high-speed rail station is expected to open later this year.
By 2022, Shazar Street will be reopened to public transportation and private vehicular traffic will be routed underground. Above ground, the new public spaces will be accessible to pedestrians.
In 2023, the green line of the Jerusalem light rail is expected to be completed and the Jerusalem Gateway will be completed. Additional buildings will be added at a later time.
Keep in mind that these are official estimates which may – and probably will – change as work progresses.
Since its inception, the Jerusalem Gateway Project has been the subject of much criticism. Some of the hottest issues include:
- There isn’t any residential space. Mixed-use, or the combination of residential, business, cultural, and retail, has been the widely-accepted urban model since the ’90s. Although much of Jerusalem is not built in that manner, a recent push towards mixed-use has been successful in many neighborhoods. With its lack of residential space, the business district ignores an urban revolution in favor of a post-WW2 separate-use zoning model.
- The plan disregards Jerusalem’s aesthetic. Jerusalem is defined by low-rise buildings clad in pale limestone. The Jerusalem Gateway ignores this tradition in favor of towering structures of glass and metal.
- There is too much space and too little incentive for companies to occupy it. With 1.5 million square meters of new space, many fear that there simply won’t be enough businesses to fill the massive expansion.
It remains to be seen how these criticisms will be addressed, but in a recent interview, Nir Barkat promised solutions.