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Still Years in the Making, Bulldozers Start Work at Hellenikon

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Bulldozers Start Work at Hellenikon. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Antonis Nikolopoulos)

ATHENS -- Stalled for years by bureaucracy, political snafus and environmentalist resistance, work on the 8-billion euro ($8.65 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport site on Athens' coast began when bulldozers started demolishing buildings July 1.

That came six weeks after a demolition order was issued for almost 450 structures on the 400-hectare (988-acre) site that is overrun with weeks, dilapidated buildings and rusting airplanes left when it closed in 2001.

It was further stymied during the 4 ½-year reign of the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which was ousted in July 7, 2019 snap elections by New Democracy, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promising a start.

That was further delayed and then set back again when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and Greece earlier this year, stopping construction and other works during a long lockdown aimed at preventing the virus' spread.

The project is being done by the Greek company Lamda Development, which bought out its partners, China's Fosun and Abu Dhabi's Eagle Hills and has been anxious to get work going on the site.

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Bulldozers Start Work at Hellenikon. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Antonis Nikolopoulos)

A formal inauguration of the works, mostly to demolish structures that once operated as part of the old Athens airport, will be held July 3, set to be attended by Mitsotakis who is wooing foreign investors too.

There are 958 areas inside the plot of the former airport which include buildings, facilities, supporting infrastructure and other types of construction, with the Development Ministry saying 13 listed buildings in the park, including the former East Terminal building designed between 1960 and 1969 by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, won't be torn down.

The site was supposed to become Europe's biggest urban park before Greece's economic crisis that began in 2010 led to a switch for mixed-used, mostly commercial space and also including the casino as well as a marina and some limited green space too for people.