Coastal revamp plan presented

Final plansfor one of the biggest zoning projects in Athens in recent years, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, were unveiled on Wednesday by chief designer Renzo Piano.

The renowned Italian architect presented mock-ups for the 17-hectare expanse in the Faliro Delta area south of Athens that will house the new premises of the National Library and the Greek National Opera, within the context of a broader revamp overseen by the Environment Ministry for an overall area of more than 100 hectares.

?The idea is to open up the city to the water,? Piano told the press conference, which was presided over by newly appointed Environment Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou. ?We want to connect Kallithea and Moschato to the sea and to break through the obstacle of the highway and the tramline that cuts off the city,? the Italian architect said.

The plan envisions a long swath of land starting from the top of the old Athens Race Course and running down to the waterfront, with Poseidonos Avenue and the tram running below it. The land will be built up to create a gentle slope, atop of which will be perched a modern complex housing the library, the opera house and an open space known as the Agora.

The overall project, slated to begin at the end of 2011 and to be completed by 2015, will cost an estimated 215 millions euros in government funds, while the cost of the construction of the two main attractions, the library and the opera house, are being funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation with 566 million euros.

The remaining area will be used to build sporting facilities, restaurants, cafes and other businesses. The plan, said general secretary of regional planning and urban development Maria Kaltsa, will be presented for public debate within the next couple of weeks.

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