Gary Barnett, an American-Jewish land developer, has dived headfirst into the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate land controversy in Jerusalem by purchasing the land for NIS 750 million from its current owners, Nayot Komemiyut Investments.
About 1,000 housing units, and the five-star Inbal Hotel, stand on the land in the neighborhoods of Talbiyeh, Rehavia and Nayot. The Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) owns the lease on the land until 2052, but a court order last year enabled Nayot Komemiyut to begin collecting rent from tenants on the land. Some tenants asked to pay more than NIS 1 million to have their apartments registered in their name.
Despite the sale of the land, the legal tangle concerning it remains. Last month, Globes reported that the JNF was considering extending its lease in order to create greater certainty for residents and to enable the legal situation to be regularized.
Residents in the area fear that in 30 years, KKL’s leases will expire and the new owner can potentially demand that the tenants leave their homes.
Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem is trying to help
One official trying to help is Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who is working to advance legislation in the Knesset that will protect the tenants.
Hassan-Nahoum fears that this is already happening on the ground. According to her, some of the tenants – many of them elderly – had been approached by representatives of Nayot Komemiyut with offers to let them buy the land on which their home was built for 30% or more of the apartment’s value.
“This is a huge amount. Considering the fact that those tenants have already paid millions of shekels to purchase the apartments,” explained Hassan-Nahoum to the Post late last year.
New owner Barnett, president, and founder of Extell Development Company called the deal a “win-win-win-win situation for the State Of Israel, for the city of Jerusalem, for Extell and for the residents.”
“We have great reputation with complex projects in the US… We are going to treat the tenants in Jerusalem with the same respect and fairness as we are doing in all of our projects. This project will strengthen Extell’s connections to the Israeli market and will boost the development of central Jerusalem.”
Extell was represented by Avi Porten and Deuel Peli from the Agmon & Tulchinsky law firm.