Judge wants refugee block saved

Reviving hopes for the salvation of an important part of Athenian architectural heritage, a senior judge yesterday called for a halt to government plans to demolish most of an historic refugee housing block on central Alexandras Avenue. Rapporteur Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou urged her six colleagues in the Council of State’s fifth division to accept an appeal by architects and local residents against the decision to knock down six of the eight 1930s buildings ahead of the 2004 Olympics and create a park in their stead. Sakellaropoulou said all eight buildings merited to be preserved and listed as protected monuments. The three-story blocks were built, in the Bauhaus-inspired modernist style, to house ethnic Greek refugees from Asia Minor after the calamitous 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war. Standing opposite the Panathinaikos soccer ground, the buildings are surrounded by open ground which conservationists want planted with trees. With its modest proportions, the complex forms a badly needed break in the densely built-up city center. Academics and architects have joined with local residents in a campaign to save all eight buildings – which the Culture Ministry refused to list as a protected monument, arguing that it would be too expensive to make the structures earthquake-proof. The government has already expropriated over half of the 228 flats. On December 16, the fifth division of the Council of State – Greece’s highest administrative court – ordered the suspension of demolition work pending this month’s final ruling. Also yesterday, Sakellaropoulou advised the court to annul a presidential decree that allowed construction of an eight-story office block on the former Thon Estate, on the corner of Alexandras and Kifissias Avenue, and revoke the building permit. Most of the building has already been erected.

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