Hopes for Greece’s struggling economy rose last week when the government approved a transformational scheme to turn Athens’ dilapidated coastal Olympics complex and abandoned Hellinikon airport into a swanky new resort, business and residential district.
Work on the $7.9bn development will start in just six months, state minister Alekos Flabouraris said on Friday, 2 June, after the country’s privatisation agency gave the nod to the scheme, reports The Guardian.
Billed as "Europe’s largest urban mixed-use development project", it is being spearheaded by Greek developer, Lamda, which has been joined by Chinese conglomerate Fosun and the Abu Dhabi investor, Eagle Hills.
Aerial view of Hellinikon International Airport before it was abandoned in 2001 (Konstantin von Wedelstaedt/Creative Commons)
Covering 6.2 million square metres, the project will end a period of limbo for a sprawling urban territory comprising aquatic venues not used since the 2004 Olympics and Athens’ old international airport, Hellinikon, abandoned in 2001 and used in recent years as a refugee camp, with hundreds of migrants setting up tents in the old arrivals terminal.
Greek police last week began removing the migrant population, which reports say had reduced from a peak of 3,000 to around 600.
Abandoned in 2001, Athens’ old Hellinikon Athens airport became a refugee camp for migrants (Eq Roy/Dreamstime)
Lamda claims the scheme, called The Hellinikon, will attract a million tourists a year, and that it will create 10,000 jobs in the construction phase, and 75,000 when it is fully operating. Lamda also claims that it will contribute 2.4% of Greece’s total GDP and funnel $10bn into state coffers over 25 years.
The scheme will have residential, business and retail districts, plus a marina and revitalised beaches along 3.5km of coastline. A centrepiece will be a 2.6-million-sq-m park, comprising 42% of the entire site.
Greece committed to sell off state assets under the terms of the international bailout keeping its economy afloat since 2010.
The Hellinikon is intended to be a new retail and business destination for Athens, developer Lamda says (Lamda)
The Guardian reports that Friday’s announcement came as Greece’s statistics service, Elstat, said the economy expanded in the first three months of 2017 by 0.4%, contrary to expectations. That marks an improvement on the final quarter of 2016 when GDP contracted by 1.1%.
Watch a promotional video of The Hellinikon scheme here.
Top image: Artist’s render of the completed scheme (Lamda)