Culture Ministry Stops Acropolis View-Blocking High Rise Construction

FILE - The 5th Century B.C. Parthenon temple stands the ancient Acropolis hill after a rainstorm in Athens, on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – After growing complaints from residents in neighborhoods around the Acropolis that high-rise buildings completed and going up were blocking the view of Greece’s treasured site, the Culture Minister revoked a permit for a nine-story structure.

That was under construction near the Acropolis in the district of Koukaki, amid protests that the building mars the view of the Parthenon and with the neighborhood being taken over by short-term rentals like Airbnb, driving out long-time residents.

The license for Misaraliotou Street building had been granted in October 2018. The ministry said that an inspection by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), the country’s top advisory body on the protection of antiquities, found the building was incompatible with the surrounding area and would block the Parthenon view, said Kathimerini.

It added that the 2018 license was issued without a prior decision by the Environment Ministry on guidelines protecting a listed building inside the property with no explanation why that was done.

The ministry said that any challenge to the decision by the property owner would require “an extensive archaeological survey,” as antiquities have been discovered on the site forcing the owners to try to challenge the powerful KAS, which has even stopped a 600-million euro ($672.27 million) overhaul of the port of Piraeus by the Chinese company COSCO which operates it.

In March, new construction licenses are being suspended for a year for new works and additions that would be more than 17.5 meters (57.4 feet high).

Environment Minister Giorgos Stathakis ordered the temporary suspension just to the south of the Acropolis – Makrygianni and Koukaki, said Kathimerini.

The decision was taken after increasing calls for the government to amend new zoning regulations that threaten to cover the Greek capital’s skyline with tall buildings that obstruct views of the Acropolis with no word whether the new buildings were designed for purchase, rentals or short-term rentals.

Residents of the neighborhood were trying to stop construction of 10-story buildings around the hill that will shut them out of a look at Greece’s most cherished site.

The Hellenic Society of Environment and Culture, the Friends of Athens Society and 11 residents appealed to the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, challenging a decision by Culture Minister Myrsini Zorba in October 2018 which okayed the building of another high-rise on Misaraliotou Street.

The appeal challenges existing legal framework and its subsequent amendments over the last four decades that apply in the Makrygianni neighborhood on the southern side of the Acropolis, the paper said.

Residents said they became wary when a high-rise was being built on Falirou Street and dwarfed buildings around it. Architect Irini Frezadou, who ;led the protest said while the Falirou Street building is legal according to zoning laws allowing additional height in exchange for “green” architecture, the project was not put forward for approval at the Central Archaeological Council, which has oversight of works affecting the country’s archaeological and historic monuments.