Israeli Environment: New Mall Seeks to Green the Negev

New B"S Mall [Image: YNetNews]

“The Future of Israel lies in the Negev.”
~ David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of Israel

If you aren’t intimately familiar with Israel, you may not realize that the country is divided into two cultural and geographical spheres: the Center and the Periphery.

The Center, composed of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and their environs, are densely populated hubs of activity. The Periphery: the Galilee, Golan Heights, and Negev Desert, are more agricultural areas outside of the Center’s reach. This segmentation is critical to understanding the Israeli mindset when it comes to how we perceive each other.

Today YNet News broke the story that Be’er Sheva is set to become home to Israel’s largest mall. With a projected budget of 700 million NIS (approx. $180.5 million) and a three-year timeframe, the mall aims to be not only a commercial center, but a nexus of social activity. Upon its completion, the mall will house clubs for youths, seniors, soldiers, and feature a children’s play area.

Additionally, the new center will be the first green mall in Israel with the following environmental considerations:

  • Solar paneling on the roof for energy conversion
  • Pools for collecting rain water and condensation from air conditioning to be reused for irrigation
  • Green park to be built near mall with connecting bicycle paths around the mall’s periphery

—– Read more about the mall’s environmental impact and plans for Be’er Sheva’s development—–

Getting Real About the Environmental Impact

But let’s not kid ourselves. While I’m proud to read about any environmental initiative in Israel, particularly ones close to home that hold the dual promise of educating Israeli citizenry about the environment and utilizing Israel’s hi-tech prowess, there are some definite drawbacks to this plan when it comes to the environment.

Zip Cars [Image]

Transportation– First of all, the 100,000 square meter mall will have 1,800 parking spaces. I hope that built into these plans are charge stations for electric cars, spaces for Zip Cars (a girl can dream), and a matrix of bus routes to locations around the city.

Rebranding the Desert City— Second, I am dubious about the designers’ efforts at “breaking the city’s desert-like appearance.” It is one thing to rebrand a city beyond a single perception for which it is known, but let’s get real: Be’er Sheva is a desert city and it always will be, no matter how green its facilities. This is not a bad thing nor should it be viewed as one.

Pollution Control— Third, it is critical that the traffic necessary to sustain a successful mega-enterprise, such as this one, does not create excess pollution. Exhaust from cars and buses, traffic jams on city streets, and noise pollution in residential areas are all potentianl consequences that require close monitoring.

As it is, YNet cites:

“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.”

Be’er Sheva’s Future

Be'er Sheva Map [Image: Israel-Car-Rental-Deals.com]

It is clear from reading about the mall that the designers have conceptualized their plans with a mind for a future Be’er Sheva, not the present one that exists today.

In the next five years, two key developments will be made in this Negev city:

That the mall’s construction is synchronized with these two factors implies an assumption that Be’er Sheva will:

  • Draw commercial interest— Become a national population center that a major commercial enterprise requires
  • Attract population— Create housing opportunities for scientists and IDF officers looking to house their families close to their places of employ
  • Allow for more income flexibility— Create higher paying jobs for a residential population with an increased spending potential

Conclusion

If all goes as planned, 2012 will be a breakout year for Negev development. While this may leave us pink cheeked that our region is finally getting the recognition it deserves, we must keep critical environmental issues at the forefront.

While the Negev has long been thought of in purely geographical terms– it comprises 55% of Israel’s landmass– the new attention brought by the Advanced Technology Park, the military transfer of forces to Ramat Hovav, and the new green mall makes Be’er Sheva a force to be reckoned with.

Be’er Sheva must grasp the brain power already harnessed by the Negev’s top four employers: the IDF, Ben-Gurion University, Soroka Medical Center, and Teva Pharmeceuticals, and claim its rightful place among the nation’s leading scientists, thinkers, and innovators. A city center that is truly green in its construction and daily activities will serve as a reminder to all that Be’er Sheva and the Negev have much to offer to the citizens of this nation.

Links

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Image Credit

With thanks to the following sources: mall plan (courtesy of Lahav Group), Zip Car, Israel map.

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16 Responses to Israeli Environment: New Mall Seeks to Green the Negev

  1. karin says:

    Are you getting paid by the municipality of Beersheva to write this? The new mall is anything but green.

    http://greenprophet.com/2009/07/07/10255/greenwash-mall-beer-sheva/

    -Karin

    • Maya Norton says:

      Hi Karin,

      None of my content is paid. If it were, I would disclose it. I find that question offensive in this context. I do not believe that my post overly complimentary, as you seem to imply

      As you can clearly see from my citations, my information is sourced from YNet and the rest is my opinion/commentary.

      You will find that I have already commented to Daniella, the author of the Green Prophet story.

      ~ Maya

  2. Daniella says:

    Hi Maya,

    Thanks for pointing me here. Good pickup on the pollution issue from car exhausts. Beer Sheva has gotten away with sub-par planning and a preference for cars over pedestrians for years because it is underpopulated, but I would venture a guess that if all the forecasted people do move here there will be a serious traffic jam and smog problem.

    Are you also a Beer Shevan?

    Daniella

    • Maya Norton says:

      Hi Daniella,

      Sorry for the very delayed response (sometimes my blog doesn’t send comments).

      At present I’m waiting to see if all of those prospects that Be’er Sheva is hoping to attract via the new Advanced Industrial Park and mall will truly make a life here. As for the expansion of the army base, I trust that that will happen.

      Yes, I am. Are you at BGU?

      By the way, always appreciate your writing when I come across it.

      ~ Maya

  3. Tamara says:

    I am leery of commercial ventures under the guise of green and would hate to think that they are talking the environmental talk just to get another mall built.

  4. Jason Goodfriend says:

    Fantastic Article, Maya.

    I think that Israel taking a lead in energy independence is not only a good idea for the world, it is important to Israel’s national security. Good research.

    Thanks,
    Jason

  5. Jonathan says:

    Hi Maya,

    Thanks for your article. It’s important that you are pointing to both the economic opportunities and environmental challenges of this new project.

    JFN is currently offering a matching grant sponsored by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund to match first major gifts to Israeli environmental organizations. Let me know if you want more information on this large scale philanthropic initiative to support the capacity building of this important sector.

    Jonathn

    • Maya Norton says:

      Hi Jonathan,

      Apologies for not responding sooner (sometimes my blog doesn’t forward comments).

      I am a big fan of the Goldman Foundation and always appreciate hearing more about their forward-thinking initiatives. Please feel free to e-mail me at mayan80 [at] yahoo.com.

      All the best and hope you had a meaningful fast,

      ~ Maya

  6. yuyu says:

    On the assumption the green is real and not just another piece of nasty bit of mere green-wash (i don’t have enough information about the mall plans to judge that, but allow me to be suspicious) i still feel the need to ponder: can any plan be “green” if it isn’t also socially and economically just?
    That is, if local small scale stores and ventures are out-businessed by the large chains (with there very un-green business models) who can afford to be in the mall, then i doubt i would call it “green”.
    People -local people- are part of the eco-system if you like. As is Beer Sheva’s lovely Old City (if someone only would think how to renovate and restore it to its former glory) when it served as the business center for all of the Negev.
    By not using (re-using? recycling) this resource, how can a new mall that demands people go there by car, be considered “green”?

    • Maya Norton says:

      Hi Yudit,

      I think you raise an excellent point that the mall’s ecological intentions, as released to the public, are not sufficient if they harm the social or economic system of Be’er Sheva’s business ecosystem.

      Somewhat surprised that you think the Old City of Be’er Sheva is lovely. I’ll take another look when I am next there.

      Thanks for visiting.

      ~ Maya

  7. Maya Norton says:

    Apologies for the delay in comments, friends. They were not e-mailed to me in good order.

    ~ Maya

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