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Economy

Greeks Love Their Malls: Biggest Coming to New Hellenikon Site

September 5, 2022

ATHENS – While malls in many countries have shuttered or been abandoned as people prefer on-line shopping, they’re doing so well in Greece that the biggest will be built in the 8-billion euro ($7.96 billion) development of the old Hellenikon International Airport grounds.

That’s being done by Greece’s Lamda Development, which violated the law in building the Athens Mall before it was then legalized as it proved to be a huge money-maker despite being on a site making access difficult.

In a report, the Wall Street Journal wrote about the plans for an even bigger mall at Hellenikon, which was supposed to be Europe’s biggest urban park before an economic crisis turned successive governments into making it commercial.

Adjacent to the sea coast, it would be a key part of the run from the port of Piraeus, where the Chinese company COSCO wants further development opposed  by businesses which don’t want competition, past the $750 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the so-called Athens Riviera.

Not named yet, the mall will cover some 2-million square feet and be a central part of the sprawling complex that is geared mostly toward the rich, including a marina for yachts, a high-rise luxury residence nearly sold out, and other commercial space, along with a small public beach, a park and some big-box retail outlets such as IKEA.

It’s been more than 20 years in the making, since the old airport closed and a new one opened about 17 miles northeast of Athens city center, the deveopment stalled during the 4 ½-year reign of the former ruling anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA which didn’t want foreign investors and stymied it.

That changed when Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his New Democracy party routed the Leftists in July, 2019 snap elections and focused on getting it going again, although major construction has yet to begin.

The project will include waterfront condos and villas, the marina and a 500-acre park, hotels, offices, schools, sports fields, casino and an exhibition center. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2026, the paper said.

It’s being developed in three parts, with a retail strip along the sea having stores and luxury boutiques, some mid-priced stores, restaurants, offices and entertainment center, but access to the sea will be limited.

Lamda CEO Odisseas Athanasiou told the paper he’s bullish on malls as Greeks flock to them and those owned by his company have a 100 percent occupancy rate and reported record sales numbers during the waning COVID-19 pandemic.

The mall will rely on Greek businesses to distinguish the complex from others, the report said, and Athanasiou said he plans to mix local and international brands and expects more than a million tourists per year.

There’s little there apart from a park and a 400,000-square-foot visitors center, where people can eat, shop and take a virtual tour of the smart city set to come later this decade.

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