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NY architect goes home for major Tel Aviv project.

Until now, New York architect Eli Attia has never designed a project that would bear his name in his native country of Israel.

"I thought it was unfair to compete with local architects for the little work that was there," said Attia,the former right-hand man of Philip Johnson whose credits in the Big Apple include 101 Park Avenue and The Republican National Bank building on Fifth Avenue.

But the local boy is going home with a bang. Attia is the designated architect for The Shalom Center, a 2.7 million-square-foot, mixed-use complex to rise on prime undeveloped land in Tel Aviv's central business district. With a price tag of $500 million, this will be the largest and most elaborate endeavor in Israel's history.

Attia and development partner Kanit, headed by David Azrieli, were ducted by Tel Aviv authorities that included 30 to 40 architect/developer teams from all over the world.

"What they had in mind was larger than anything built in Israel and they wanted to set the tone for the new central business district," he said." ... That is the reason they sought outside advice."

While Kanit is a specialist in shopping centers, Attia said, he has built his reputation in tall buildings and larger complexes.

The architect's vision for The Shalom Center includes three office towers with residential units on the top four floors of each; a retail base; a public roof-top garden and a parking garage for 3,000 cars.

New Concept for CBDs

Learning from the mistakes of Western cities, Attia said, Tel Aviv has disbursed its central business districts and its tall buildings around the metropolis. The Shalom Center will rise at the center of the areas.

"They're doing [The Shalom Center] on what use to be the edge," he said.

Symbolizes Peace

In addition to being in the city center, The Shalom Center is bounded by three highways -- one national and two local -- so it will serve as a connecting point for other Israeli cities and other areas of The Middle East.

"The geography of the highway is very significant when talking about geography that goes beyond the politics of today," Attia said.

Called the Shalom Center -- "Shalom" meaning peace -- the project was designed to signify the calm that is beginning to emerge in the conflict-plagued Middle East.

The three towers will be built in three distinct shapes -- triangular, square and circular. Thus, Attia said, the three separate structures will also work in harmony with one another.

The buildings also coincide with Tel Aviv's concept of a modern city. All three will be able to be seen from anywhere in the city and none will have a single facade. The open spaces between the buildings will cause the view to change as cars move along the highway.

"It's a changing skyline ... a dynamic skyline," he said.

The Shalom Center will be privately owned. The city of Tel Aviv sold the land for $50 million. In addition to city zoning rules and other laws, however, the designer and developer must adhere to specific guidelines specified by city officials and an oversight committee.

" ... since this is such an important project for Tel Aviv, they keep a very close eye," he said.

Attia said the city had wanted to develop the land where The Shalom Center is slated for some time, but they needed a bold and well-planned approach. Now that the Shalom Center is in the works plans have been submitted for adjacent areas.

Israel, Attia said, is becoming a new world economic market because of the anticipated peace. The project will be funded by Israeli institutions, but, he said, there is substantial interest from foreign lenders

"All over the world, there is quite a lull," he said. "But there's a lot of activity in Israel and a lot of potential."

While Attia and Azrieli have not taken a local partner in Tel Aviv, he said, all construction contracts will be given to Israeli firms.

"They will be Israeli because they have excellent capability there," he said.

Phase I construction, Attia said, is expected to begin in February of 1993 and the completion of Phase III is to be realized in less than 10 years.

Attia's work is currently being featured in a Tel Aviv Museum.
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Title Annotation:New York architect Eli Attia returns to Tel Aviv, Israel for building project
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 14, 1992
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