Further work on Omonia

It’s official: Omonia Square is to be reconstructed, yet again. Following a general outcry, the study that won the architectural competition for refurbishing the square is to be abandoned in favor of another solution that includes extensive greenery. Yiannis Kalantidis, president of the Unification of Archaeological Sites of Athens (EAXA), told the press on Wednesday that the committee responsible for the project had submitted three proposals, which agree on two or three basic points. First, the square will be planted with greenery wherever possible. There will be large trees, but only on the fringes of the square, since any further excavation would interfere with the metro beneath the square. Second, the 3-meter-tall prism construction that blocks the view of the Acropolis from Tritis Septemvriou Street is to be demolished. Third, the unattractive top of the metro ventilation unit will be lowered, and last, the sculpture by Giorgos Zongolopoulos will remain in situ, though plants will be placed around it. In all likelihood, the two irregular surfaces with water in the center of the square will not be dismantled but they too will be included in the new setting with more greenery. Kalantidis did not present any of the three proposals to the press; that will be done by Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou next week when she announces the latest plan for long-suffering Omonia. He predicted that there would be a merging of the three proposals. Kalantidis assumed «100 percent responsibility» for the failures that led to the present situation, while insisting that the new refurbishment would not cost the State a single additional euro. In contrast with Omonia, the work on pedestrianizing Dionysiou Areopagitou Street is to EAXA’s credit. Kalantidis voiced his total opposition to handing over the pedestrian zone without restrictions. The recent book exhibition sparked many protests, «because it completely negates the idea of an open, public walkway,» he said. That event has been followed by the ONNED festival being held by the youth section of the New Democracy party. Referring to reports of damaged pavements and to political pressure, Kalantidis asked the Culture Ministry and the City of Athens to establish clear rules for use of the road. Work starts on Syntagma Square next week. The biggest changes will be to traffic flow, when the footpath on the Ermou side is widened, cutting the traffic lanes from seven down to three. Othonos Street will be opened up again to traffic and the center of the square will get a new covering of marble tiles with an anti-slip finish. Large trees are to be planted at the start of the Ermou pedestrian zone and two large fountains will be installed to help keep the area clear of cars and motorcycles. EAXA has taken on another two projects – the refurbishment of Pireos Street (a project repeatedly announced by the Public Works Ministry) and reshaping the area around Zappeion Hall. As for Koumoundourou Square, work is proceeding normally, and the project is due for delivery in late November.

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