ATHENS – It's been a long time coming but the first small steps of beginning the 8-billion euro ($9 billion) development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport on the capital's coast will be taken with the demolition of five buildings.
The New Democracy government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who said he wanted to begin construction by the end of 2019 before that was set back and then delayed further when the COVID-19 Coronavirus hit has approved razing structures.
That will technically start work on the project now under the sole control of Greece's Lamda Development which bought out foreign partners from Abu Dhabi and China for a development set back for years by political wrangling and bureaucratic hassles.
But it will still take until Oct. 31 before the demolition begins on a project that will take year to complete, set back under the 4 ½ year rule of the Radical Left SYRIZA that was bounced by New Democracy in July 7, 2019 snap elections.
Speaking at the 5th Delphi Economic Forum, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said the project will continue despite the pandemic and fears it could return in the autumn as work will be accelerated.
In May, the development got a push when a demolition order was issued for almost 450 other buildings.
That opened way for work to begin on the site following another rejection of an appeal by Hard Rock International of a casino license given to the rival Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment despite that Connecticut-based company's financial problems.
The decision will affect 958 areas inside the plot of the former airport which include buildings, facilities, supporting infrastructure and other types of construction, said Kathimerini in a report.
The process began in April when the Development Ministry legalized buildings that had been raised on the site, regardless of whether they had a permit, to avoid the lengthy process followed for illegal constructions.
According to the ministry, no other approvals or legislation is required to start demolishing the buildings although 13 listed buildings in the park, including the former East Terminal building designed between 1960 and 1969 by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, are not being affected.