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Israel's party city, Tel Aviv, turns its beachfront to gold

From John Defterios, CNN
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 0210 GMT (1010 HKT)
  • Tel Aviv's beachfront is home to some of Israel's most expensive luxury real estate
  • The waterfront district has generated more than half a billion dollars worth of investment in the last four years
  • Multi-million dollar property prices represent a big change for a city that was on its knees at the end of the 1990s

Editor's note: One Square Meter explores the leading architectural designs, city plans and demand for property investment in emerging markets. Join CNN's John Defterios as he visits some of the world's most dynamic cities for an insight into the fast-paced world of real estate development.

(CNN) -- There was a time when Tel Aviv's beachfront was just another neighborhood sandwiched between the city's bustling Namal port district and historic old town.

Not anymore. Today the area is home to some of Israel's most sought-after luxury real estate and has been dubbed the "Golden Kilometer" thanks to the rocketing cost of living space.

A seventeenth floor apartment of 600 square meters (6,420 square feet) here sold for $23 million recently, a record for Tel Aviv. In the same area, a rented unit of 300 square meters (3,228 square feet) is on the market for $10 million.

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These premium prices represent a big change for a city that was brought to its knees due by large debts at the end of the 1990s. In the last four years alone, however, the waterfront property market has generated nearly half a billion dollars of investment.

See also: Where are the world's most expensive luxury properties?

The turning point can be traced back to the development of the city's Namal Port area. It was here that architects Ganit and Udi Kassif won the contract to renovate a huge space that had sat idle for 50 years.

The pair quickly set about creating quirky living and work space for the city's hip up-and-comers.

"This project started a real revolution," said Ganit Kassif. "After this many mayors said to us, make it like the Tel Aviv port."

Old empty warehouses in Namal are now filled with creative types and cutting edge retailers.

One of these young merchants is Shir Halpern, owner of the city's first organic market. Although initially skeptical about setting up shop in an old industrial space, he now sees the virtue of the location.

"At the beginning the port felt to me like too isolated ... too far from the vibrance (sic) and power of the city," Halpern said. "But looking back it was really a perfect choice."

See also: Could micro-homes offer big solution?

The lively, can do vibe of Namal has since spread to other areas of the city, including the beachfront.

But while the most lucrative properties may reside by the sea, the high end market can be found spreading to other districts as well.

Jaffa, an old fishing neighborhood to the city's south now hosts properties valued as high as $5 million apiece.

According to the city's mayor, Ron Huldai, however, Tel Aviv's fundamental landscape and attractions are what continue make it such an appealing place to live whether that be in a luxury abode or not.

"We have an excellent beach, excellent weather excellent food, restaurants," Huldai said. "Why not (have) people coming here to enjoy themselves?"

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