CULTURE

Culture Ministry set for move to Pireos 260 site

Talk about moving Greece?s Culture Ministry from its landmark premises in the Exarchia neighborhood in central Athens has been around for about 15 years. As the rather controversial solution of a former tobacco warehouse in Rendi, western Athens, is losing ground, officials appear to have set their minds on the Tsaousoglou building complex, a former office furniture factory, in Tavros to the south.

Costas Tzavaras, who holds the culture portfolio at the Ministry of Education, Religion, Culture and Sports, recently announced that he is currently in negotiations with National Bank of Greece, which owns the site, to acquire the building — which has been used as a venue for Greek Festival performances every summer since 2006 and is better known to many around the capital by the name Pireos 260, where it is located.

Moving the Culture Ministry offices to Tavros would relieve the state of having to shell out rental costs of some 3.5 million euros per year for 17 properties. The former factory is priced at around 20 million euros.

When Tzavaras first took over as chief of the ministry?s culture department, he vowed to finally solve its accommodation problem and cut spending. At his first press briefing, the minister said there were plans to transfer the offices to three separate spaces, including the landmark Acropol hotel near Omonia Square. The building, one of the most important examples of the Greek version of French Art Nouveau, suffered extensive damage during a fire earlier this year.

Moving the culture department of the ministry to the Tsaousoglou complex on Pireos, which is an example of 1970s industrial architecture, is expected to strengthen the area?s profile as a culture hub. The Benaki Museum, the Athens School of Fine Arts, the Foundation of the Hellenic World, big recreation centers, and smaller music stages and theaters are reshaping the character of the former industrial area.

As the financial crisis continues to take a hefty toll on the country, it?s easy to see why the ministry is trying to bring its fragmented culture department under one roof. At the same time, however, it?s hard to see why officials have not decided to make use some of the many properties owned by the ministry.