ATHENS — Even if you have very deep pockets and dream of living high above the sea on Athens' coast, you're running out of time to acquire a luxury high-rise or villa for the coming redevelopment of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport site.
The 8-billion-euro ($9.47 billion) project was supposed to be Europe's largest urban park before a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis turned toward turning into a mix of commercial use and luxury sports for the rich.
That includes the rare opportunity to have a seaside village close to the capital city's center along the so-called Athens Riviera that will link the renovations of the port of Piraeus by the Chinese company COSCO to Hellenikon, with the $861 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the middle along the water.
Demand has been so strong that all of the apartments in the project’s 45-floor marina tower as well as the 27 beach-front villas available will be sold by the beginning of next year, if not earlier, Odisseas Athanasiou, Chief Executive Officer of Lamda Development, the project’s developer, told Bloomberg financial news.
The company has already secured more than 700 million euros ($828.85 million) in deposits with prices starting at 9,000 euros ($10,657) per square meter, with prices expected to hit 14,000 euros ($16,577) by 2025, the highest in Greece and comparable to New York, Shanghai, and Geneva, Switzerland.
“It’s huge, because we’re talking about a value close to 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion)” once the property is delivered, Athanasiou said in an interview.
The early sales are a good sign for Greece’s biggest development project. Stretching across an area three times the size of Monaco, the redevelopment of the decommissioned Hellinikon airport could add as much as 2.2% to the country’s economy and 80,000 jobs by 2025.
The project – now officially known as The Ellinikon – is seen propelling Greece's slow comeback from the economic crisis that was accelerating when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The development was also stymied for 4 ½ years by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which had a hard-core element that doesn't want foreign companies or investors in Greece, the government aiding in blocking the work.
It's been 20 years since the airport was closed after the opening of a new airport in the area of Spata northeast of Athens, 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) from the center of the capital Athens.
Since then it's been stonewalled by an economic decline and the country's notoriously slow bureaucratic entanglements and challenges from environmentalists who said weeds growing through cracked cement constituted a protected wooded area.
Lambda bought the land in 2014 and bought out two partners, China's Fosun and Abu Dhabi's Eagle Hills, giving the Greek company that had built the disputed Athens Mall sole rights for what could be a financial bonanza and further transform an area along with sea where private companies control public beaches.
THE GROUND FLOOR
“The multiplier effect from an investment standpoint, from a tourism standpoint and the perception for the country is going to be huge,” Athanasiou told the news agency as some clearing work has already begun, but the final not expected for some years yet.
He said the developments, mostly commercial buildings, a marina for yachts, a casino and other properties, and a much smaller park than originally envisioned, will be powered by renewable resources, and sensors will regulate everything from lighting to garbage pick up, the report added.
The Ellinikon will be one of the world’s first smart, green communities built from scratch, according to Athanasiou.
The company has described the project on the coast south of Athens as "a modern, green, digital city, a model of viable development, friendly to people and the environment, that will highlight Greece's cultural heritage – a new place of entertainment, relaxation, walking and exercising, accessible to all."
The works will cover some 2 million square meters (21,572,820 square feet) and besides what will be called Metropolitan Park includes:
- Sports facilities
- A 72,000-square meter (775,000-square foot) mall
- Offices and a hotel near the mall, near Vouliagmenis Av.
- Galleria mall near the Agios Kosmas marina
- Two hotels along the coast
- Nearly 800 housing units (including single homes and apartments)
- A skyscraper for housing near the Agios Kosmas marina
The project will open up 10,000 new jobs at its start and have created a total of 70,000 jobs at its end, in a wide range of economic activities and services, said the company, which, like others, was hurt by the pandemic limiting activity.
Lamda plans an initial public offering for its mall unit in 2022. The transaction is expected to generate liquidity of more than 400 million euros ($473.55 million,) Athanasiou said, adding that the company plans to gradually reduce its holding in the malls to less than 45 percent from 88 percent now.
He said two shopping centers are planned as part of the airport redevelopment, and those could also be sold to the mall unit, Athanasiou said.
Helped by the project, Lamda aims to triple its value by 2025, he said. The shares have risen 12 percent this year, valuing the company at 1.4 billion euros ($1.66 billion.)
A 1 billion-euro ($1.18 billion) business park will be constructed, and Piraeus Bank said it will move its headquarters to the project that's one of the most ambitious in Europe and seen lifting property values astronomically and lure more companies to settle there.
“Greece will become a world-class destination,” Athanasiou said. “Moving from just a sea and a sun destination to an art of living one,” if said, although attainable there mostly for the rich with no report of affordable units being built.