Yechiel Lasari, Ashdod’s Mayor since 2008, has big dreams and plans for his city. First and foremost, he would like to realize Ashdod’s potential as a magnate for tourism. To this end, he’s concentrating most of his efforts on tourism investments and is promoting some ambitious projects.
And why not? Ashdod is located in the center of the country on the shore. It has a beautiful 10 kilometer beach and one of the largest ports in Israel. The beach is pure sand with no cliffs and no buildings, and the port is one of the largest in the Middle East, according to Lasari.
Right now the Municipality of Ashdod is working on a town plan that will include new residential neighborhoods, public buildings and transportation. According to Lasari, Ashdod has 237,000 residents and he estimates that by the year 2020 the city’s population will grow to 300,000 residents, although he admits that the Ministry of Interior’s estimates are more conservative that this.
The main obstacle to Lasari’s plans for the city is the fact that Ashdod has used all its geographical potential and it cannot grow in geographic size anymore. Therefore the new town plan will reflect taller apartment buildings, and more urban renewal projects that will allow for more apartments to be built on existing buildings. Lasari is also considering annexing neighboring agricultural lands to the city.
Three new hotels are in the works. According to Lasari, Ashdod holds the status of a preferred area for hotels, and builders of hotels can receive 24% of the cost of establishing the hotel in government grants.
Other plans include making the local marina into an international marina, a new board walk along the beach, construction of 4,500 new apartments (and more if you include the new apartments from the urban renewal projects), and a space park to be named after the late Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon.
According to Lasari, many of the cruise ships that cruise the Mediteranian Sea dock in Ashdod. Lasari estimates that about 4,000 visitors a day enter Ashdod from these cruise ships and many of them disembark and visit the city’s malls. A new terminal with duty free shops is planned for the port.
Who knows? Perhaps we will soon be seeing ad campaigns depicting Ashdod as the new Riviera of the Middle East.