Athens to get a facelift

Athens’s new municipal authorities plan to transform the capital into a more attractive, functional, popular and cleaner city – and the forthcoming Olympic Games are one more incentive. They aim to boost the city’s aesthetic image by restoring 12 key green areas, renovating the facades of 5,000 buildings, planting 10,000 new trees and tens of thousands of colorful seasonal flowers. They aim to make the city more functional by upgrading 16 stretches of sidewalk and six roads, while also making changes to significantly boost the city’s accessibility. Athens should become cleaner too if plans to invest in dozens of new garbage disposal and street-washing vehicles materialize. Also, a new website about the municipality promises to boost the capital’s popularity. All these planned changes will cost an estimated 183 million euros. City Hall, which has said it can cover 52.84 million euros, is asking for 106 million euros in state aid and 24.6 million from taxpayers. The venture is hardly economically sound as the State is unlikely to be able to contribute the lion’s share of the projected expenses (the Interior Ministry’s entire Olympic Games allowance is 103 million euros), while City Hall is also seeking the funds to secure its own contribution. In any case, municipal authorities insist that «the city of Athens will be the focus of interest because most of the contests will take place in the broader context of the Attica basin, because it is a transport hub, because of the broad range of facilities it offers visitors, and because of its significance as a tourist destination.» One of City Hall’s key priorities is the renovation of 5,000 building facades on Olympic routes and surrounding areas. It basically wants the Public Works Ministry to increase its contribution to the projected expenses to above the 30 percent mark. It is also offering loans to poorer citizens who cannot afford to pay taxes – loans which could repaid over periods of as long as 10 years. The municipality’s second major concern is the development of parkland. It already oversees 400 hectares of hills, woods, parks, squares and other common outdoor areas, as well as 435 kilometers of tree-lined roads throughout Athens. City Hall plans to plant 10,000 trees and many seasonal flowers in public squares, along sidewalks and on traffic islands. Cleanliness is perhaps the most troublesome area, as municipal authorities conceded in a recent memorandum. Therefore, there are plans to procure dozens of new street-cleaning vehicles, hire extra staff, and establish a central depot for garbage trucks. The capital’s ongoing problem with strays is an issue of concern to municipal authorities who are planning to establish three reception centers and a temporary shelter for the animals as well as employing staff to sterilize and tag the strays. Boost for squares and hills Municipal authorities plan to spruce up nine squares, one small wood and two hills as part of broader plans to prettify Athens ahead of the Olympic Games in 2004. The squares to be renovated are Laconia, Victoria, Petroula, Protomayia, Plastira, Pneumatiko Kentro, Sina, Dafnomili and Popliou-Lenorman-Benaki. Horofylakis Wood, Lycabettus Hill and Ipios Kolonos are also included in the program. There will be major changes to Kypseli market which is due to run a public information center during the Olympic Games. And there will also be roadwork on the following streets: Kypseli, Panormou, Filolaou, Ipitou, D. Soutsou, Troo and Hymettou.