In 1995, the construction of a visitor center above the Gihon Spring was halted with the discovery of some massive Middle Bronze towers. Today the ugly shell of the building hovers over the site with no apparent intention of ever being completed.
Yesterday the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee approved the plan for another visitor center for the City of David, this one located in the former Givati parking lot below Dung Gate (aerial photo here). This is the same area where archaeologists have claimed to have excavated the palace of Queen Helene of Adiabene. Haaretz reports:
The new visitors’ center is to be built above the Givati parking lot and will be called the Mercaz Kedem (Kedem Center). The building will be built on stilts and beneath it there will be an area where visitors can view recently discovered archeological findings. The Elad organization promoted the plan and it obtained the support of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who appeared before the district committee earlier today to voice his support.
The Israel Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem District director, Dr. Yuval Baruch, also expressed support for the plan, despite the presence of archeological findings under the building. “This is one of the most important projects in Jerusalem in recent generations. It would be impossible to find a serious archeologist with a bad word to say about the conduct of the excavations,” said Baruch. “The building as it stands is approved by the Israel Antiquities Authority and was presented to the authority in dozens of meetings.
All of the changes the Antiquities Authority requested were included in Arie Rahamimov’s plan: the number of parking spaces was reduced, and the height of the building was limited so it would not overshadow the height of the Old City wall (the difference is one meter). There is an important link here between the Ophel Garden, the City of David and the Western Wall and the creation of a direct link between the sites. We led the way to this result.”
The building, designed by architect Arie Rahamimov, will also include a parking lot for the use of visitors to the City of David, exhibition space and classrooms and on the roof, there are plans to build a plaza and observation deck overlooking Silwan and the Old City walls.