ECONOMY

‘Chinatown’ forming off Athinas St

Chinese companies are continuing their penetration of the Athens real estate market, focusing on specific areas in the center of the capital city. These firms have turned their attention to leasing commercial space in basements or floors in neighborhoods that resemble ghettos and are close to the spots in which they have a commercial presence. These companies frequently already use these spaces as warehouses for their outlets and rush into leasing any space available south of Athinas Street, off Omonia Square. «The area’s ghetto-like character has resulted in a massive decline in leasing rates, so that Chinese companies are now the only ones interested in leasing,» said a local tradesman who preferred to remain anonymous. The problem, according to the views of commerce unionists, is now beginning to show its greater dimension as the aim for these firms is not just commercial activity but extends to the overall control of an entire area in Athens’s city center. The same sources argue that the existing legislation for commercial leasing allows for the presence of a lodger for more than 10 years. This practically means that even if there are serious efforts to change and upgrade the areas in question the possibilities for success are limited because the area will be dominated for a long time by these specific commercial activities. Furthermore, the warehouses created and their protection under the commercial leasings law leads to the conclusion that these companies have firmly anchored themselves in those areas and it will be hard to relocate them. «The sole line of defense in order to avoid the full ghettoization of those areas is the Greek-owned companies that are present there at the moment. Their removal will effectively open the gateway for the usurpation of the whole area,» say local tradesmen. «This is why the studies for town-planning and zoning interventions should not only aim at helping the area to improve, but also offer incentives for companies active in this area to stay here. «For instance, the pedestrianization of Athinas Street could lead to serious problems in the delivery of supplies to hundreds of companies, mainly wholesale ones, which will then look toward relocation. This is why the upgrade can turn against everyone, particularly the local market,» they say.