CULTURE

Tatoi Estate?s development potential to be explored

Anyone who has visited the former royal estate at Tatoi outside the northern Athenian suburb of Kifissia cannot help being struck by its enormous historical and environment significance. The fact that it has been left to run to ruin for several decades now defies reason. However, things seem to have gained some momentum over the past few years as the state has introduced some initiatives, if somewhat reluctantly.

One such initiative was a decision by the Athens Regulatory Plan (ARP) organization, which is under the jurisdiction of the Environment Ministry, to assign a study outlining how Tatoi can be saved and how much the rescue will cost.

The purpose of the study, which will be put to tender by ARP in mid-spring, is to explore the possibility of developing the main part of the Tatoi Estate.

?The aim is to transform Tatoi into a culture park in which history and nature can coexist in harmony,? ARP chief Yiannis Polyzos told Kathimerini. ?We need to take a comprehensive approach that shoould start with a complete record of everything that lies within the estate — such as ecosystems and buildings. Then, we can assess how it can be developed on a technical and financial level, so that we can draw up a rough estimate of what revenues it could generate and how much it would need to become viable.?

The study, which has been budgeted at 60,000 euros, was put in ARP?s hands by the Parnitha National Reserve Management as the Tatoi Estate includes two sections that come under its jurisdiction.

The Tatoi Estate was seized from the former Greek royal family by the state in 1992 as a means of settling the family?s tax and other debts. The law was annulled by the subsequent administration, though in 2003 the entirety of the estate (about 4,700 hectares) came under the control of the state after the former royal family was paid 12 million euros in compensation, in accordance with a decision by the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2007, following a devastating forest fire on Mount Parnitha, which the estate abuts, the Ministry of the Environment and Public Works introduced a presidential decree to have Parnitha rated as a protected zone. The decree also included a part of the Tatoi Estate, which is separated into four zones identifying which parts can be used for development. Then Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias had proposed that the estate?s mansion be turned into a hospitality unit for visiting dignitaries.

In 2008, the ministry amended the decree by introducing a special body for the management of Tatoi, though the estate remained under the Parnitha protection group until this new body could be formed.

However, the body was never formed, according to the head of the Parnitha protection group, Constantinos Dimopoulos, and Tatoi was left to its own devices. ?The truth is that the Parnitha body never did much for Tatoi because it focused its efforts on rehabilitating the forest after the fires. However, as the Tatoi wood is at an especially vulnerable stage because of its age, we have carried out extensive scrub clearing and fire protection operations in the area.?

The Environment Ministry?s initiatives are complemented by the Ministry of Culture, which has jurisdiction over some 40 buildings on the estate that have been listed for preservation by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and the Cultural Heritage. The most recent move made by the Culture Ministry was to assign funds to carry out emergency restoration work on some of the older buildings as well as funding to begin the transformation of the mansion into a museum.