ECONOMY

Industrial apartments with a view

Lofts – old industrial buildings turned into modern homes – have become very popular in the rapidly developing parts of Athens city center and have grown into a significant property category in the market. Such properties can be found in abundance at Gazi, one of the Athenian neighborhoods that has undergone a huge transformation in recent years. Gazi’s gradual transformation into a hotspot for art and cultural events, along with the ever-increasing number of restaurants and bars in the area, has led to a rise in demand for housing, particularly from artists. Gazi can offer homes with a view of the Acropolis or Lycabettus Hill. Consequently, those interested are mostly middle-aged and educated people who have effectively shaped the supply of new houses. «It is due to demand that constructions have evolved both at Gazi and at Kerameikos, as the solution of newly built apartments that maintained the common character of the blocks of flats was not the answer to the demand emerging. Therefore construction firms were forced to change their philosophy and approach to these areas, proceeding to the transformation of old industrial buildings into modern homes,» said Vassilis Axarlis, CEO of the Hellenic Property Center, a company that sells, leases and constructs properties in these areas among others. Loft features There is a general set of features that are characteristic of lofts, according to Axarlis. They maintain the character of an industrial building dominated by wood and iron. They usually have just one big room with a minimalist character. Their surface ranges from 60 to 200 square meters and are not necessarily on the ground floor; they often are on higher levels, with a view of the Acropolis. The special character of lofts and the house hunters to which they are addressed usually mean that their prices are higher than conventional homes in the areas. New houses in Gazi cost between and -2,800 and -3,000 per square meter, while lofts start from -3,800 per sq.m. and can reach -4,500 per sq.m. Good transport links for Gazi, Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio and the constant upgrading interventions in recent years have contributed to these areas’ renaissance. The completion of the City of Athens’s program for the unification of archaeological sites has highlighted some areas that had been downgraded until now and put them back on the real estate chart. Everyone now expects the start of revitalization works at nearby Votanikos, as besides the new metro station the construction of two shopping and entertainment centers is planned by the City of Athens (40,000 sq.m.) and Babis Vovos (70,000 sq.m.) respectively, which will accompany the new Panathinaikos sports club complex. As a result, interest is not only focused on housing, but also on commercial spaces, as many companies are expressing an interest mainly in entertainment spots or a restaurants. Axarlis suggests that the rise in prices and the change in philosophy have also led to the departure of economic migrants who used to live in those parts of the city. High demand, maintained despite the imposition of value-added tax, has forced many construction companies into entering this market segment, which has significantly increased the number of lofts on offer. The scope for growth is great as the majority of buildings are quite old. Votanikos is among the areas with many opportunities for loft development, because it has many old industrial buildings. However, construction companies have until today been reluctant to invest there. Now market professionals suggest that this is about to change soon, particularly due to the huge profit margins such constructions offer.