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Reviving the Old City of Beer-Sheva One ‘Passage’ at a Time

Reviving the Old City of Beer-Sheva One ‘Passage’ at a Time

October 24, 2013

Business & Management, Negev Development & Community Programs

You’ve heard of the mall, you’ve heard of the shuk, but you may not have heard of the passage.

Pronounced like massage with a “p” these small alley-like shopping malls were common in the development of commercial centers in Israel’s cities and towns.

As larger commercial centers and mega shopping malls were developed in cities like Beer-Sheva, passages became less popular (and less viable for businesses), and many were abandoned.

Earlier this month, after two years of planning and renovation, the “Uniko Passage” was officially re-opened. It is one of the 11 alley-like shopping arcades crisscrossing the Old City of Beer-Sheva.

“The renovated Uniko Passage includes dozens of residential apartments, renovated offices and stores,” says Prof. Oren Yiftachel of BGU’s Department of Geography and environment Researchal Development.

More than two years ago, Prof. Yiftachel held a planning workshop with his urban planning students on how to revive the Old City.

“The workshop focused on a central issue – the empty passages, which were neglected and even dangerous,” he explains.

“We conducted surveys, released reports, presented at three conferences, including at the Mandel Center, and then we heard the Beer-Sheva municipality was going to move forward with our recommendations with the assistance of the Ayalim Organization, David Merage and a push from Beer-Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and the Old City of Beer-Sheva Development Company.”

Uniko Passage was chosen as the first step and renovation funds were secured.

“Our department and the University were mentioned in the speeches at the Uniko Passage’s gala opening. Even though we know there is still much work to be done, it was wonderful to be there, and to see that we played a role in this undertaking,” says Prof. Yiftachel.

He commends the 12 students who participated in the planning workshop. “The credit goes to the students who put their imagination to work on this project.”

The next steps for the Uniko Passage include putting in an events hall and a restaurant on the roof. Then on to the next passage.

“There are still about 10 more passages, some in excellent locations, that are awaiting the next stages.”