Park to include town

Where the government has promised to build the biggest metropolitan park in Europe, on the site of the old Athens airport at Hellenikon, a new suburb of some 30,000 residents is to spring up under a secret development plan, according to a report in yesterday’s Kathimerini. The decision was made on October 24, and will allow 100 of the 530 hectares covered by the defunct airport – in the midst of prime land in the capital’s southern coastal suburbs – to be built with luxury housing, shopping centers and leisure areas. Developers will be given the land free of charge, on condition that they cover the costs of the work on transforming the rest of the barren former airport into a 430-hectare park. A further obligation will be to pay the State 15 million euros a year, irrespective of the profits reaped by development. On the basis of current prices for land in the area, the 100 hectares would be worth some 880 million euros. According to town-planning authorities, who discussed the matter in the October 24 meeting, some 800,000 square meters of housing and commercial buildings can be put up at Hellenikon. With some tweaking by construction companies under Greece’s notoriously malleable building regulations, this can easily reach 900,000 square meters – which, including offices and businesses, could accommodate some 30,000 people. At current prices again, this could result in sales worth a total of 1.5 billion euros. On the other hand, the cost of creating the park is not expected to exceed 400 million euros, to which developers will have to add the cost of building on their 100 hectares. In a few days’ time, an international competition is expected to be announced for ideas on the project, while by the end of the year the Ministry of Public Works will table an amendment, as part of the bill on illegal building activity, to modify the building regulations currently in force in the area. Proposals for the park will be made public on March 30. The former airport is already scheduled to host a number of sports including baseball, softball, and kayak racing during next August’s Olympics.