ATHENS - Once set to be Europe’s largest urban park before an economic crisis made Greece change plans, the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport 8-billion euro ($8.76 billion) development calls for the site to mostly covered with commercial use, including at least six-high buildings.
The scheme by the development consortium, led Greece’s Lamda and including Chinese investment group Fosun and Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills, will turn the site, now a mess of decrepit buildings, decaying airplanes and weed-covered tarmacs, into a wealthy mix of commercial space, high-end residences, a marina for yachts and a casino.
Trying to accelerate the development that the consortium complained was blocked for 4 ½ years by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, the new New Democracy government has pushed for granting of licenses.
Development and Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis added that a master plan developed by the previous government remains intact and has not been revised by the addition of "even one more window,” said the business newspaper Naftemporiki, although streets and sidewalks and paved area will reportedly be considered part of the park.
He said Greece will get a 300-million-euro ($328.42 million) down payment, from the international consortium by the end of the year, the first construction set for early 2020, six months later than Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised, saying it would begin immediately after he won July 7 snap elections and ousted former Premier Alexis Tsipras.
Georgiadis said a long-delayed license for the casino, considered crucial to the plan, would finally be let on Oct. 4, with three companies remaining, the US’ Hard Rock and Mohegan and Malaysia’s Genting still in the running after three other bidders gave up over delays.
The planned Metropolitan Park on the capital’s coast is being shrunk further.
While it simplifies design and building permit procedures, limiting the Culture Ministry’s ability to intervene over four preserved monuments: the international terminal designed by noted architect Eero Saarinen and three plane hangars, it also stipulates that the park, which had been cut to 200 hectares (494 acres) will have buildings on 40 hectares (98.84) will be built on, with streets and sidewalks reportedly being classified as park land, further lessening the green space.
Construction had been scheduled to begin in 2008 and be completed by 2013 but after a shift away from only a park to commercial space and the reign of SYRIZA which essentially shut it down, it kept being pushed back again and again.
Before the change, the originally-conceived park would have been far bigger than London’s Hyde Park and Central Park in New York.