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Society

Stalled for Years, Hellenikon Will Be Greek Seaside Mega-City

ATHENS – It’s taken almost two decades from idea to beginning – and stymied by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for 4 ½ years – but a sustainable seaside city at Greece’s abandoned Hellenikon International Airport is underway.

It will transform a 1500-acre of weeds popping up through decaying tarmacs and rusting airplanes, almost on the seaside near the so-called Athens Riviera, into an $8 billion development.

That will be – instead of Europe’s largest urban park which was the original purpose before a long economic and austerity crisis made a change to commercial use – a playground for the rich as well as others.

There will be luxury homes and a high-rise tower of apartments almost sold out before the first piece of soil was dug, and a Hard Rock casino, marina for yachts and boats, luxury stores and a mall, and a smaller park.

Seaside access will be more limited than originally planned but when done Hellenikon will be the third link along the seaside that begins in the port of Piraeus – being transformed by the Chinese management company COSCO – with the $867 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center  the hub.

In between, after a new airport was opened in Spata some 20.5 miles northeast of the capital along a then-new highway, Hellenikon has sat dormant with political parties engaged in battles over how, or if it should be developed, the anti-business SYRIZA fiercely resistant to the notion.

That’s all changing and there will be public transportation access from the airport to the site as well as a new station in Piraeus and a link along the seaside, much of which is still controlled by private businesses blocking access to public beaches and limiting views from Hellenikon.

“The Greek capital is set to be home to a hyper-modern mega-city that could be one of the most futuristic settlements on the planet,” noted the site TimeOut about its sustainable aspects too.

“All this is billed as ‘Europe’s greatest urban regeneration project’ – and the designs look pretty dazzling,” it said, also noting that there will be a 21,527 million square foot coastal park and a 31.06-mile bicycle and pedestrian path, and also reachable by a tram from Athens’ center.

It’s also set to be a “15-minute city,” meaning that everything is accessible on foot although the site noted that – this is Greece – things can change and the sustainability might not be borne out.

For now there’s an interactive exhibition called The Ellinikon Experience. It’s free to enter and hosted in an old airplane hangar on the future Ellinikon site – you can book a visit.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in October took part in the official start in October for the work being done by Greece’s Lamda Development, who bought out two foreign firms to control it.
Mitsotakis noted that his government restarted the project that was blocked by SYRIZA and that, “The famous slogan for the bulldozers of Hellinikon has been heard many times, sometimes to hide delays and obstacles and sometimes to sound the anxiety to start the project. The words have now become action.”

“It is a project financed by private funds and will add 2.4 percent to the GDP, over 14 billion euros ($14.51 billion) in public funds will create more than 70,000 jobs,” he said, and make the stretch from Piraeus to Hellenikon one of Europe’s most desirable destinations for tourists too.

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