German Colony residents step up campaign
German Colony residents protesting hotel development in the Omariya Compound are looking to expand their campaign after the dispute captured national attention, according to Marik Stern, an organizer of the neighborhood's action committee.
German Colony residents protesting hotel development in the Omariya Compound are looking to expand their campaign after the dispute captured national attention, according to Marik Stern, an organizer of the neighborhood's action committee. As reported in In Jerusalem ("High and mighty," June 16), a seven-story Four Seasons Hotel on the northern area of the lot, along Rehov Emek Refaim, has already been approved, while developers are also seeking approval for a 12-story Colony Hotel, to be built across the street "I don't think that any local fight of this level has gained such national exposure," Stern said, adding that the attention was "really exceptional and a very big success [for the campaign]." He said the local campaign organizers submitted a list of objections to the development plan, signed by over 5,000 residents of the German Colony and surrounding neighborhoods, on July 6. National attention stimulated fund-raising efforts as well, Stern said. He said donors include residents and Shorashim Sheli (My Roots), a local action group that supports grassroots environmental campaigns. Plans are also under way for a renewed political lobby effort, both at the local and national level, Stern said. Reiterating the position of the residents' campaign, Stern said that while "the community has accepted that a hotel [in the Omariya Compound] is inevitable," the team continues to protest the Four Seasons' plan for additional upscale residences. "I think that public opinion will not accept even part of their plan," he said. "It wouldn't be respectable to take any of this plan seriously." Benny Cohen, who is representing the Four Seasons, said the new Four Seasons plan, adding seven stories to the original hotel design, was created with the unique appearance and atmosphere of the German Colony area in mind. "Let us rest assured that it was considered very thoroughly," Cohen told In Jerusalem. Acknowledging the right of local residents to voice their opinions, Cohen said legal procedures would settle the dispute. "If some people think that this needs another consideration," he said, "this is exactly why we have the legal procedure in which all of the objections will be heard by professionals who represent the public." A small committee comprising representatives of government and local residents, as well as architects, will meet early this fall, Stern said.