Israel’s Biggest Mall to Be Built in Beer Sheva


mall-israel“This is my life’s work,” entrepreneur Eli Lahav, CEO of the Lahav Group, stated last week in reference to the Beer Sheva Mall, which is planned to stretch over an area of about 100,000 square meters at an investment of about $180.5 million. According to Lahav, the mall – which is scheduled to be ready in three years – will be the biggest in Israel and the first green shopping center in the country. Shem Tov Tzruya, head of the architects’ team at the Moore Yasky Sivan company, spoke of the mall’s green characteristics, which will be a consumption, recreation and social center for residents of the Negev’s capital and its surroundings.Alongside the green design, which saves on energy, the mall’s appearance is also aimed at making an impression and breaking the city’s desert-like appearance.

Lahav and Tzruya made the remarks at a ceremony held yesterday in the Negev’s capital to expose the project.

The mall’s main entrance will have three waterfalls. “The water expresses prosperity and life,” explained Tzruya. In addition, the mall will include a pool for collecting rain water and air-conditioner water and reusing it for irrigation, as well as use of natural illumination and solar energy.

A green park will be built near the mall on an area of about 8,000 square meters. Special bicycle lanes will be developed around the mall.

“On the roof we’ll have thousands of photo-volt cells in order to save on energy. A special glass will be installed at the entrance to the mall which will be transparent without absorbing the sun’s energy,” explained Tzruya.

According to the entrepreneurs, the mall will be twice bigger than the Ramat Aviv Mall in Tel Aviv. It will have 40,000 square meters of commercial area for rental, 1,800 parking spots, and about 5,000 square meters for recreation and leisure.

The transfer of the IDF bases to the Negev and the fact that the land reserves in central Israel are increasingly disappearing have led Lahav to realize that Beer Sheva could be the next economic center.

The mall will be built on the ruins of the nostalgic (Neot Midbar) Desert Inn Hotel. The recreation and leisure center created is expected to serve hundreds of thousands of the region’s residents.

“When I was offered to buy Neot Midbar, it took me a few second to realize the deal’s potential, and within 24 hours everything was already signed,” explained Lahav, who was born in Beer Sheva.

“They asked me ‘why Beer Sheva?’, and I said, ‘The news will come out of Beer Sheva.’ This is one of the leading consumers’ cities in Israel, a district city with half a million people. This is the next great thing. This is a world view, a concept, a center combining recreation and leisure and a communal center. This is in fact a huge youth cultural center.”

Lahav aspires to turn the mall into the residents’ second home. The mall will take part in activity for the communal life together with municipality bodies for all layers of the population, including hosting classes encouraging local handiwork, a center for youth movements and soldiers’ meeting, a recreation center for children, and a golden age club.

Behind the social aspect hides a financial motive as well. Beer Sheva is already filled with shopping centers, and therefore the Beer Sheva mall must make itself particularly attractive for the audience it is slated to serve.

Avi Shayat, Lahav Group’s business development manager, explained that this would also leverage the business-economic activity in the city.

“The more you stay here the level of expenditure per capita rises, and the proceeds increase,” said Shayat.

The army is also a key part of the business. “There will be shuttles from the bases to the mall. Those going on leave won’t escape. In the night the soldiers will be driven back to the bases.”

“People will come and learn from us. The mall will be a source of inspiration,” said Lahav. “We are creating a public center.”

He added that the mall would be planned as an inseparable part of the city, but that this would not hurt the other centers. “There will be a battle on giving better service. There is room both for that and for that.”

The mall’s construction is expected to being in 2010, but the earth works have already begun. The construction is expected to end in 2012. In the area near the mall the municipality is interested in setting up a hotel, and the Lahav Group is competing for the area in a tender.

Some 300,000 vehicles pass every day on the Toviyahu Boulevard route, where the mall will be built. 35% of the city’s population lives at a distance of 1.5 kilometers from the mall.

No one was wise enough to realize the potential hiding in this valued area so far, and Lahav decided to build his life’s work, his vision, in the area: A metropolitan commercial center combining communal activity.

However he is still asked, “Why Beer Sheva?”

“Beer Sheva and the Negev are about to undergo a revolution in the coming years,” says Yaakov Ben Yizri, president of the commerce bureau in the Negev. This is a good enough reason to understand why Beer Sheva of all places.”

{Yair Israel/Ynet}