ATHENS – After what the developer said was 4 ½ years of foot dragging by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, another obstacle to starting the 8-billion euro ($8.88 billion) master plan for the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport was lifted, this by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) that had put up a roadblock.
With a newly-comprised board, KAS unanimously agreed to change a ministerial decision – taken by SYRIZA government – loosening previously restrictive licensing procedures and paving the way for acceleration of the development.
The unanimous decision scraps the requirement that every study and construction plan at the Helleniko property development project also receive approval by the Culture Ministry’s archaeological service, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.
The consortium that won an international tender to develop the site, led by Greece’s Lambda and including China’s Fosun and Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills, had protested the previous decision, saying it put the whole project at risk and added more red tape.
The site now is a weed-covered area of abandoned airplanes, deteriorating airport buildings and has sat untouched for some 18 years, but also includes the coastal Aghios Kosmas sports park.
Unable to meet his first priority of immediately starting the development on Athens’ coast, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with Spiros Latsis, the billionaire head of the consortium that’s been eager to get started.
Mitsotakis said he’d give the go-ahead his first week in office after winning July 7 snap elections but the project’s start now has been pushed back at least until the year’s end because of unstated bureaucratic delays that have hampered it for for years.
Earlier, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said his ministry would accelerate the licensing process so that Lamda can lease the property from the state and start construction. A series of approvals from several ministries and a tender for the construction of a casino are pending but it wasn’t said why neither he nor Mitsotakis didn’t mandate immediate licensing be done.
The consortium plans are to turn the old airport into a complex of luxury residences, hotels, a yachting marina and casino after the original plans to create the largest urban park in Europe were set aside during an economic crisis, the government preferring cash instead.