Bid to revitalize Omonia Square

Another attempt is under way to revitalize run-down parts of central Athens, including the busy yet scruffy Omonia Square, in a bid to lure residents and shoppers back to the city center, Kathimerini understands.

Prompted by the KIPOKA citizens movement, municipal officials have launched a series of meetings with entrepreneurs in the vacancy-plagued neighborhoods of the capital to discuss ways of halting the decline and regenerating the area.

?The mayor appears to have good intentions. I am optimistic about our future cooperation,? a local businessman who did not wish to identify himself told Kathimerini after the first meeting with Giorgos Kaminis this week.

One of the proposals discussed at the meeting is to allow businesses to place tables and chairs on the square, as a way to draw people to the location.

?Businesses are slowly coming back to the center as recent campaigns by the municipality and the police have raised hopes of containing impoverishment and crime,? said the man, who intends to rent a long-vacant building in the heart of the city for a new business.

Formerly vibrant neighborhoods of Athens, particularly around Omonia, have struggled with prostitution, drug dealers and users and street crime since the Greek debt crisis began about three years ago.

Past pledges to revamp the center have failed to deliver — mainly due to scarce funds. Last month saw the launch of an international tender, funded by the Onassis Foundation, for an ambitious blueprint to remodel the center, featuring a pedestrianized street that will connect key archaeological sites with the area?s main museums.

Meanwhile, the government last month announced plans to create 30 detention centers on the mainland to house illegal immigrants who don?t qualify for asylum before they are deported.

Kaminis told Kathimerini the City of Athens was working on plans to upgrade Omonia Square, giving it a look and identity closer to that of nearby Kotzia Square, which is in front of City Hall on Athinas Street.

?The big challenge however is to bring people back to the center; not only as visitors but also as residents,? Kaminis told the newspaper, announcing that La Mirage, an old hotel on Omonia Square, will soon be offering cheap accommodation to students.

Meanwhile, reports Thursday said that three new shelters will open in Attica in the coming weeks to provide support and rehabilitation assistance for the homeless. Provisions at these day centers, which will be funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, will include first-aid and bathroom facilities as well as an extensive range of social services.