Beer Sheva, the long-suffering capital of Israel’s Negev desert, just broke ground on the biggest shopping mall in Israel. Like the other seven malls of Beer Sheva, this $180.5 million complex will continue to suck business out of the dilapidated but walkable Old City. Unlike the others, this one claims to be green. Architect rendering, on the left, from Ynet.
According to Ynet News, “The mall’s main entrance will have three waterfalls. “The water expresses prosperity and life,” explained [architect Shem Tov] 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.”
Developer Eli Lahav said he will also put up an 8,000 meter green park with bike lanes beside the mall, in addition to solar panels on the roof. He plans on having classes, a meeting center for youth and soldiers, and a club for elderly citizens.
While Lahav is to be commended for getting green construction and mixed uses into his project, they are afterthoughts tacked onto an environmentally destitute concept. The green mall will be 2 kilometers from the Old City, 3 km from the Central Bus Station and about 5 km from the heart of the major strip mall concentration on the eastern perimeter of the city. Even in places that aren’t stiflingly hot, people don’t generally walk more than a quarter of a kilometer before getting into a car if they’ve got one. Since the plan doesn’t include any housing but rather is another aiport-like flat-roofed sprawler, you can bet that its customers will likely drive there.
You can see what I’m talking about in the map below, created with Google. Point A is the new mall. B is the Negev Mall, within an easy walk of the Central Bus Station. The BIG shopping center and its neighboring strip malls are around point C, and D is the Old City.
The article in Ynet did not investigate any of these environmental issues but rather took a jovial tone of bringing money and investment to the Negev. However, in 2007 Haaretz covered the looming mall by talking to dismayed store owners in the Old City, like shoe seller Amos Peretz.
“Each new mall hurts us,” Peretz said as he arranged shoes on his store’s shelves. “The city does not need more malls. We can invest resources to improve the situation in the Old City and increase the number of parking lots, repave sidewalks, build a roof over the pedestrian zone, place more lights and connect the facades of all the businesses. We talked about it a million times already but it is not being done.”
Similar to other aspirational projects like Masdar City, this is another greenwash attempt that covers its inherent flaws with expensive technology. At the least, I would have hoped Lahav would have been more tactful than to suggest three man-made waterfalls as an environmentally sound program for a desert city in a country with a water crisis.