After its ambitious 600-million euro ($678.81 million) plan to upgrade the port of Piraeus it operates was blocked by the government, the Chinese company COSCO got approval from the Culture Ministry to turn three buildings into hotels.
COSCO wants to renovate the port and some surrounding areas so that larger cruise ships carrying tourists essential for the tourism industry can berth but local businesses, fearing competition, want it stopped.
The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who said he wants foreign investors at the same time hard-core elements in the party are trying to keep them out, has put up obstacles to he renovation plans.
The overhaul of Piraeus would be tied to the nearby Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center along the coast and then to the long-delayed $8 billion redevelopment of the old Hellenikon International Airport site to enhance the so-called Athens Riviera.
A decaying area before COSCO took over, Piraeus has shown signs of improvement under Chinese management and Greek media reported that the Central Council for Modern Monuments approved an investment program which sees the famous Pagoda building transformed into a five-star hotel, on the condition that “its front is not altered.”
It also issued approval to turn two large warehouses into four- and five-star hotels of 150 and 200 rooms, while the hotel at the Pagoda building will have 300 rooms, although there were reports the number of rooms could be cut.
COSCO estimated the cost at 48 million euros ($54.3 million) for the two warehouses and 60 million euros ($67.88 million) for the Pagoda building in hopes of further making the area more attractive for visitors during a record run of tourism seasons.
The Pagoda, named because of its distinctive architectural design, was used as an exhibition hall and then as a passenger terminal.
The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) designated half the port and two-fifths of the municipality of Piraeus as coming under archaeological protection, requiring stricter building provisions and land uses, putting the grand master plan on hold for now.