Israel approves first West Bank settler homes since Gulf deals

Israel approved 2,166 new homes in settlements across the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, official figures sent to AFP showed, ending an eight-month lull in settlement expansion. 

The approvals came less than a month after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to normalise relations with Israel, which in return pledged to freeze its plans to annex swathes of the West Bank.

NGO Peace Now said the settlement uptick signals Israel’s rejection of Palestinian statehood and deals a blow to hopes of a wider Israeli-Arab peace.

It said that around 2,000 more homes are expected to be approved on Thursday.

“Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank,” it said in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s decisions.

US President Donald Trump sees the Gulf accords as part of his broader initiative for Middle East peace.

But a controversial plan he unveiled in January gave US blessing to Israeli annexation of large chunks of the West Bank, including the settlements, communities considered illegal under international law. 

Israel agreed to delay those plans under its normalisation deal with the UAE, something Emirati officials have cited in response to Arab and Muslim criticism.

The two Gulf countries were only the third and fourth Arab states to normalise relations with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he sees others following.

The Palestinians condemned the accords and quit the rotating presidency of the Arab League in protest at its failure to take a stand against them.

The Gulf agreements broke with years of Arab League policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which made its resolution a precondition for normalising ties with Israel.

The latest settlement plans, for a total of more than 4,000 new homes, were

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West End school’s slated renovation sparks memories of neighborhood’s history of gentrification

CINCINNATI — Golan Marom may not be from the West End, but he said feels a connection to the buildings in the neighborhood anyway.

“The architecture and the history of that area, I think, is really, really wonderful,” Marom, the CEO and founder of Zada Development, said. “I think that it’s unique in that it just has its own character to it.”

The developer from New York is fixated on redeveloping the Heberle Elementary School building on Freeman Avenue, a vacant property he acquired about two years ago. Built in 1929, the school has been closed since 2007 because of its poor condition and students’ declining enrollment. Some in the neighborhood say the building has been languishing over time, as evidenced by its cracked and boarded up windows and the weeds springing up from the pavement in its front yard. In 2018, it was reported that a part of the building’s facade fell, sending bricks into the street.

Still, despite the extensive repairs that will have to be made to the building, Marom is enamored with Heberle’s charm. His vision is to rehabilitate it into a set of lofts, specifically for artists and recent college grads, as well as commercial space. He said he wants to serve the local community and create a living space that is welcoming to young people.

“What I think that the community’s lacking is not necessarily affordable housing, but maybe something, you know, a step above that,” Marom said. “You know, so housing that’s unassisted but that’s at a price point that people that are starting their lives, you know, can feel comfortable in.”

Marom’s plans are a steep departure from the original plans to redevelop Heberle. He said there were once plans to turn the school into a luxury housing space within a larger

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Popular West Palm eatery Kitchen set to open second location at Alton Town Center

a man and a woman standing in a room: Aliza Byrne and Chef Matthew Byrne own and operate Kitchen restaurant in West Palm Beach. [Photo by LILA PHOTO]

Aliza Byrne and Chef Matthew Byrne own and operate Kitchen restaurant in West Palm Beach. [Photo by LILA PHOTO]

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Seven years after opening their popular American brasserie Kitchen in West Palm Beach, Chef Matthew Byrne and his wife, Aliza, are preparing to debut the sequel. 

The West Palm Beach residents will unveil their second Kitchen restaurant early next month at Alton Town Center in Palm Beach Gardens.

The eatery, which will seat 150 with ample outdoor space and a private room, joins a growing list of new restaurants at the 360,203-square-foot retail complex on Donald Ross Road.

More: Gardens McDonald’s reopens dining room after $450,000 contemporary renovation

More: Miller’s Ale House to open next year at Alton Town Center in Gardens

The location was a perfect one for the Byrnes, who were eager to expand into an area where many of their regular customers live, including nearby Jupiter.

“It’s such an amazing community there,” said Aliza Byrne, who has grown familiar with the area since her teenage sons began attending The Benjamin School. “A lot of our clients live nearby. There was such a huge demand from people who said they wished we were closer. We feel really good about it.”

Byrne said she expects to draw more year-round diners to the new Alton Town Center location, whereas the original Kitchen, at 319 Belvedere Rd., is more seasonal.

That restaurant, which has drawn a steady stream of locals and visiting VIPs since it first opened in October 2013, seated just 36 people initially and served only beer, wine and champagne for the first three years.

The Alton Town Center restaurant will have a ‘proper’ bar, Byrne said, which will allow for a bar menu and happy hour.

“We were never able to have

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Renovation of west Louisville’s Academy @ Shawnee has been long overdue, JCPS leaders say

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — By the end of next summer, the third floor of the Academy @ Shawnee should be back open to students and staff at the west Louisville school.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio’s comments at the Academy @ Shawnee



The expected reopening date ahead of the 2021-22 school year will mark 40 years since the third floor was condemned because of structural issues.

And it will coincide with the completion of a roughly $40 million renovation of the magnet middle and high school that has also featured improvements to Shawnee’s library, auditorium, gym, classrooms, natatorium, hallways and other areas.

a person holding a microphone: Shawnee principal Kym Rice spoke of the work beind done as part of a $40 million dollar renovation of the Academy @ Shawnee during a press conference Thursday morning. Oct. 6, 2020

© Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal
Shawnee principal Kym Rice spoke of the work beind done as part of a $40 million dollar renovation of the Academy @ Shawnee during a press conference Thursday morning. Oct. 6, 2020

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The looming completion of that work on the school at 4001 Herman St., which dates back to 1929, may seem to mark the closing of another chapter in its history.

But Kym Rice, the Academy @ Shawnee’s principal, views it differently.

“This is just the beginning of what the Academy @ Shawnee will look like,” Rice said Tuesday while standing in the new library space. “… I really cannot wait for our students, our staff and our families to come back to our building and see all the changes we made.”

Friday Night Rewind: Shawnee-Jackson County game was about ‘showing unity, showing love’

Rice and other Jefferson County Public Schools officials led reporters Tuesday morning through a hard-hat tour of the school, which buzzed with the sounds of construction as it otherwise remains closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. John Niehoff, a JCPS architect

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After improvements, part of West Eleven office park heads to auction

About a year after the former Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan buildings in Southfield came under new ownership following a contentious court battle, part of what is now known as the West Eleven Office Park is heading to auction.

The auction for 27350 W. 11 Mile Rd. runs from 1 p.m. Nov. 16 to 1 p.m. Nov. 18 with a starting bid of $1.35 million for the 159,200-square-foot vacant building.

At one point, the building was “shuttered by debtors” and “unfit for occupancy,” court filings in Oakland County by Southfield-based brokerage house Farbman Group said last year.

The building is one of four that I wrote about in November stemming from a series of mind-boggling lawsuits between Canadian investors targeting each other in Oakland County and federal court, with allegations ranging from fraud to implications of one party in a double murder in Toronto.

You can read the story here, but the long and short of it is that the ownership group let the four-building complex deteriorate, leaving behind tens of millions in unpaid bills and mortgages because they were broke, and then Farmington Hills-based Friedman Real Estate bought the properties out of receivership.

A mortgage company based in California foreclosed on the loan, and Friedman Real Estate paid $22.9 million for the note via sheriff’s deed in May 2019, according to Oakland County land records.

Jared Friedman, director of opportunities for Friedman Real Estate, told me this morning that the plan was always to sell the Tower 300 building because it sits on its own parcel and makes for a good redevelopment opportunity.

“We put a lot of time, money and effort into fixing up those buildings, fixing elevators, HVAC systems, upgrading parking lots,” Friedman said.

The two tenants in the complex are Federal Mogul Corp. (now Tenneco),

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