Israel’s Luxe Boom
Fri, 05/23/2014
Jaffa Port. Courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism
Jaffa Port. Courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

The luxury sector in Israel is burgeoning, with top-rung hotels and plush housing developments opening in quick succession. 

Some carry international brands. In the last six months, Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf Astoria opened their first hotels in Israel, in Herzliya and Jerusalem, respectively. Both were built alongside private residences that reflect the quality of the hotels.

Now, another American hospitality brand, W Hotels, is on its way, with a hotel-and-residences pairing due to open in just over a year in Jaffa, the oldest part of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipal area. The New York-based real-estate tycoon behind the W brand, Aby Rosen, said: “I chose the Old City of Jaffa to be the first location for the W Residences in Israel because of its richness in history and exclusiveness of the area. The location, together with the W Hotels’ expertise in luxury lifestyle, brings a unique opportunity to investors who want the authentic Israeli experience in a beautiful contemporary design, and who want to have the international service that can complement their busy lifestyles.”

The apartments at The Residences at W Tel Aviv-Jaffa will feature hand-finished hardwood floors, marble stonework, and kitchens designed by John Pawson. There will be a separate entrance, closed to guests of the attached hotel, to guarantee privacy. Views from the hotel include the side streets of the Jaffa artists’ colony and the sea.

As well as American luxury brands, European companies are becoming more interested in Israel. Kempinski, widely considered Europe’s finest hotel chain, is opening in Tel Aviv in 2017, and it will also have residences. This hotel-apartment combination appeals to today’s frequent U.S.-Israel flyer, according to Eyal Hartogs of Holland Real Estate, exclusive agent for the David Promenade Residences. “People who want a house for their holidays want their own private place but none of the responsibility for cleaning and maintenance,” he said. 

As vacant plots with sea views become harder to find, the architectural trend on the Israeli coastline is to do everything to place the focus on the ocean. Windows are the new walls, with designers trying to use as few closed walls as possible and instead building with floor-to-ceiling windows. The David Promenade Residences project embraces this trend, and also makes the most of the sea view by giving all apartments large balconies.

Homeowners will be able to order room service, chambermaids and cleaners and maintenance service — all received with the same speed and efficiency as for hotel guests, thanks to a service tunnel connecting the two buildings. Laundry and dry cleaning will be picked up from apartments and delivered back, and there will be full concierge service.

But isn’t there a downside of living in a hotel complex, with the constant arrivals and departures? No, because the hotel and the David Promenade Residences will be in separate buildings. Walkways ensure fast access to the hotel, but the fact that only residents can use them guarantees their privacy. They will also have their own swimming pool, gym and sauna — as well as access to the Kempinski health club. “There will be all the advantages of the hotel without any of the disadvantages,” said Hartogs.

Luxury projects are clamoring for big-name architects with bold design ideas. Kempinski and the David Promenade Residences are being built according to plans by Feigin Architects, the firm responsible for the David InterContinental hotel in Tel Aviv, the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem, and the King David Tower in Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, at another Tel Aviv construction site, work is based on the design of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier.  New York-based Meier is famous for his fixation with white, which makes him a natural fit for the so-called White City, Tel Aviv. Meier-on-Rothschild will be his imprint on the city in the form of 141 units boasting high ceilings and exquisite views.

Each 8,450-square-foot floor can be a single residence or divided into two or four units, and will feature 540 square feet of outdoor terraces. There will be a luxurious spa, top of the line fitness centre, relaxation lounge, treatment room, a 25-meter (27-yard) swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, and a wine cellar with a private tasting bar for residents and guests.

Despite the high-end amenities that the development offers, sales director Lee Ziv said that one of the biggest attractions is its artistic value as a Meier creation. “Just as people buy beautiful art, they want to own and live in a Richard Meier home,” she commented. “It’s not just a building — in other projects you can change things but Meier has very specific instructions.”

Meier-on-Rothschild is a joint venture between Berggruen Development, the U.S.-based private investment firm headed by Nicolas Berggruen, and Israeli real estate company, the Hagag-Cohen Group. They conceived Meier-on-Rothschild as “a building of world-class caliber that would push the envelope regarding the current local construction and design standards in Israel.”

Daring design also guides the W development in Jaffa. Two historic buildings form part of the development — the former School of the Sisterhood of St. Joseph and 19th-century French Hospital. British architect John Pawson, working with the Israeli firm Ramy Gill, is complementing key features such as the sun-bathed chapel, vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows and hidden inner courtyard with contemporary components.

Rosen expects the luxury market in Israel to continue to grow. He commented: “Today, we see a growing need for more up-market serviced apartments in Israel, particularly because of overseas investors. Many are seeking a second home in Israel as the influx of tourism, migration and lucrative business prospects gets stronger here, year by year.” ◆