ECONOMY

Facelift of buildings continues

Owners of buildings in Athens are increasingly responding to the City of Athens’s facade renovation program, which is successfully continuing today even though it had originally been focused on producing the best face for Athens during last summer’s Olympic Games. In the last few months another 300 buildings have been completed, with the total number reaching 2,300 since the program started. Until the Olympics last August, 1,500 buildings had had their facades renovated. But as soon as interested owners realized the program would continue after the end of the Games, more applications were submitted. More than 3,000 of them have been submitted to date, and their number is increasing every day. The «Prosopsi» (Facade) program has now entered a new phase after its inclusion in the objectives of the City of Athens Development Agency (AEDA). Originally, it was implemented by the «New Image for Athens» consortium, established by the City of Athens, the Public Works Ministry and the Unification of Athens Archaeological Sites SA. «Just before the Olympics, when people thought the program would be discontinued, there were days when we would receive up to 15 applications while the average number was between 8-10 per day,» says Alexandros Tsiatsiamis, CEO of AEDA. «Today, almost a year later, this figure has remained between five and eight per day, a quite impressive number.» In this new phase, the program is broader in scope, since the basic aim now is improving the quality of life in Athens’s urban areas and upgrading the city’s image. There now is greater demand from areas and neighborhoods outside the city center; most projects are carried out in residential neighborhoods and small streets, creating a new urban landscape, and not on houses on any of the main streets of Athens. In this context, the City of Athens has submitted a proposal to the European Union and the Greek state for Prosopsi to be incorporated in the Regional Operational Program (PEP), so it is financed by EU money instead of City of Athens funds. «I expect that within the summer the relevant consultation will be complete and we will have an answer,» Tsiatsiamis said. «As for the percentage of the subsidy, this will not be any different than the current one. Let me remind you that the subsidy covers 15 percent of the project’s value for common buildings and reaches up to 20 percent for listed ones. «The cost is calculated according to the prices determined by the Public Works Ministry committee. Certainly, if an owner secures a better price from a contractor, then the percentage of the subsidy goes up,» he added. If the renovation program enters the PEP, it will pave the way for many other municipalities besides Athens to take this opportunity and upgrade their buildings. Municipalities within large cities will most likely benefit. Apart from the subsidy and the reinstatement and preservation of facades (mainly through painting and cleaning), the program also includes free issuing of the permits required, tidying up the surrounding spaces and replacing private aerials with a central one for each building. For some months now, an effort has begun to renovate buildings around the city’s squares. To this end, the City of Athens has decided to find companies that act as sponsors, securing the resources needed. Having gained the consent of the landlords involved, AEDA has proceeded to select squares around the city. Technical reports and renovations studies will follow, presented to candidate sponsor companies. To date, five squares have been renovated in this fashion: Kanellopoulou in Ambelokipi, Dexameni in Kolonaki, Pangratiou in Pangrati, Hilton in Ilissia and that of the Varvakeiou market. There were also recent efforts made at Victoria and Kanari squares in Kypseli, Gyzi Square, Ergaton Polemiston Square in Lambrini, Orthodoxias Square and Akadimias Platonos Square in Kolonos, Aghiou Thoma Square in Ambelokipi, Amerikis Square at Patissia, Ious Square in Petralona and Machis Analatou Square in Neos Cosmos. But there could still be difficulties in the program’s implementation. Some of these squares, especially those that cover a great surface, have high costs, reducing interest. Still, sources say certain businessmen have expressed interest in renovating the buildings around Monastiraki. To apply for the Prosopsi renovation program, contact the program’s offices at 11 Voulgari Street, near Omonia Square or call 210.520.3120-9. The City of Athens Development Agency undertakes the study and the issue of the certificates is required. The choice of the undertakers of the renovation is exclusively made by the owners, after they receive the subsidy approval.