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Israeli resort construction halted in Eastern Finland

A 3.5-million-euro holiday resort scheme, started in 2015, is now on ice.

Ecoland Finland Kaavi kiinteistöosakeyhtiön toimitusjohtaja Jonatan Orlev.
CEO Jonatan Orlev last spoke on the construction of the holiday village in 2018. Image: Helmi Nykänen / Yle

Construction of an Israeli-backed cabin complex billed as a "eco-village" in Kaavi, Northern Savo has been stalled over unpaid building permit fees and other unspecified causes.

Local paper Koillis-Savo reported Friday that the last time construction work had been done on the property was last November. It wrote that part of one sauna and the foundations for a handful of cabins had so far been started.

Kaavi municipal manager Ari Sopanen told Yle on Friday that Ecoland has yet to pay the municipality the required construction license fee, some 2,400 euros. He also said work would continue in the winter, but had no comment on the specific reasons for the construction shutdown.

"It's nothing unusual. Building projects don't always go as planned," Sopanen said.

Changing plans

Back in 2015 Yle reported that an Israeli investment coalition called Gillerit Ltd – information on which is scant – had purchased some 17 hectares of land on the island of Petäjäsaari for 115,000 euros.

Public interest in the international project was then high, with Sanna Sillman of the local entrepreneurs' association praising the venture for its expected boost to tourism and employment.

At that time Ecoland Finland Kaavi, the Israel-based company in charge of building the resort's luxury cabins, said they planned to open the completed holiday village to tourists in 2017. Construction did not begin until October 2018.

The number of cabins proposed in the "eco-village" plan also changed over time, from 24 to "about 40" across three years.

In October Ecoland announced it would complete 12 cabins by the end of 2019, with a final opening date sometime in 2021.

Israelis laud "magical island"

The original owner of Ecoland, Amir Weil, said four years ago that Finland's richness of natural environments presented a golden opportunity for financial gains.

"I think Finns are missing something," Weil said. "Sometimes familiarity with a beautiful landscape can make people forget to appreciate it. We want to show you how amazing this country is."

The Hebrew-language Ecoland website promotes Petäjäsaari as a "magical island".

"We come from a country without islands. Coming to Kaavi is like a dream for us. The people we'd bring are looking for quiet environments to visit," Weil said in 2015.

He also cited the region's beautiful and optimal location in the midpoint between Helsinki and Lapland as well as the interests of the local populace as reasons for building the resort.

Today the company's Israeli CEO Jonatan Orlev heads the resort's construction efforts.

"With a 2021 deadline, there is ample time to discuss and develop ideas, and think about how the locals can respond to an uptick in tourism," Orlev said last year.

According to the Kaavi municipal zoning report the holiday village will be composed of privately owned cottages. The owners would use them for 2-8 weeks per year, and rent out the cabins the rest of the year. Ecoland boasted in 2015 that it had already sold 12 of its cabins but this has not been corroborated.

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