ATHENS – It was supposed to become Europe’s biggest urban park before economic woes drove Greek governments to turn toward commercial development, as the 8-billion euro ($8.18 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport is on its way to creating a seaside city.
Located on the southern coast of the Greek capital along what’s called the Athenian Riviera, Hellenikon was delayed 4 ½ years under the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which had hard-core elements who don’t want foreign investors but work has slowly begun, although it will take years to finish.
So vast is the work, noted The Robb Report – which specializes in news for the rich – that it will be done in phases and the first section won’t open until 2025, much of the development geared toward the wealthy.
The piece said that it’s been called largest urban regeneration project in European history and is just 20 minutes from the Acropolis and could become perhaps the biggest attraction in the country.
It will also finish a leg along the sea that begins with the plans to further renovate the port of Piraeus on a route that runs past the $800 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center that’s a major attraction.
Instead of a park – there will be one but smaller – the site will be a mixed-use development of luxury high-rise hotels, commercial space, marina and casino but won’t, as was planned, have direct access to the sea.
It will cover an area of 1,500 acres and its own metro stop, making it more accessible from Athens’ center as a highway leading there is often clogged with vehicles backed up, sometimes for miles.
“The Hellinikon city reflects a new paradigm of living, working and enjoying life by the sea,” the CEO of Greek real estate holding company LAMDA Development Odisseas Athanasiou exclusively told Robb Report.
His company became the sole developer after buying out foreign investors and has set up what’s called the Experience Center, set inside a former hangar, to give visitors a preview of what’s coming.
It “heralds a new era for the future prosperity and innovation of Greece,” Athanasiou said. “It is the best way to experience the project right now, globally, that will change the way people think about smart urban development, sustainable retail, recreation, travel experiences and coastal living for years to come.”
One of the interactive models at the center’s Living a New Era” exhibition uses more than 25,000 individual pieces to highlight downsized green spaces, next-generation designs and infrastructure projects.
Visitors can also cruise the coastline aboard a simulated speedboat at the Living by the Sea exhibition or check out the Botanical Library which simulates the flora of the park but unless they are rich can only walk past a marina for yachts
There’s also a virtual stroll through the Night Garden Dome, which emulates the park at night with a series of light strips, sounds and scents, the report said of the effort to give Greeks a visitors a glimpse of what’s coming.
The opening of the first phase, including a residential tower and a retail and dining galleria, will be followed by the launch of a sporting complex, marina and next-generation transportation system.
“The Hellinikon showcases a project with global impact that will also generate tremendous investment value and create thousands of jobs for the Greek economy,” Athanasiou said. “The Experience Center is an inspiring symbol of what’s to come for Greece and the world,” he said of the hopes.