The 1,500-acre seaside site of Ellinikon, Athens’ former international airport, just 10 km south of the Acropolis and by far the most coveted large parcel of land in Greece, has lain deserted and unused 15 years after the last flight left, and 12 years after facilities for the Athens 2004 Olympics built on its site were abandoned.
But now plans have been announced for a massive redevelopment project that will include 1 km of public beaches, a new marina, residential and commercial construction, and, best of all, the setting aside of nearly half the property as what will be one of largest urban green spaces in Europe. Not bad for the city that until now has the dubious distinction of having the least amount of green space of any other European capital.
The original agreement, inked in 2014, had allowed for a great deal less green space, but the recently re-negotiated deal has added over 200 acres of parkland to the original agreement. The original deal had dedicated 890 acres to buildings of various kinds. That has now been reduced to 667 acres, leaving a nearly 500-acre park, making it bigger than London’s Regent Park, and about 60% of the size of New York’s Central Park.
In addition, a tunnel will be built beneath the park to carry through traffic. Lambda Developments, headed by Spiros Latsis, son of a late Greek shipping tycoon, will be in charge of the project, paying nearly a billion euros for the privilege. Gone, unfortunately, are the plans for at least part of the land to be used as a high-tech incubator for the southern Mediterranean. Instead, the focus will be on Greece’s most durable brand: tourism, which accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP.
In addition, the privatization of the land will unlock more money from the EU for Greece’s cash-starved economy. The redevelopment project is supposed to provide 10,000 jobs, with a permanent gain of 60,000 jobs once the entire project is up and running.
Near the east entrance to the project, by the sea, sits the Palace Hotel, a Mouzenidis Gou property, which should provide visitors a view of the project’s progress over the next few years.