More concrete at Hellenikon ‘park’

Residents and representatives of 40 social groups from the municipalities of Alimos, Argyroupolis, Glyfada and Hellenikon yesterday accused the government of selling out to big businesses as it was announced that a consortium (including Olympic Technical) had been approved for the development of a 17-hectare plot on the site of the old airport at Hellenikon. Protesters criticized plans for increased construction on the site, charging that there would be hardly any space left for green on the «Hellenikon Park» site once the contractors have all been assigned. Indeed, the Athens town-planning authority’s final outline for development of a metropolitan park at the site of the old airport at Hellenikon foresees a total of 1 million square meters of concrete. Last month’s revelations in the press of plans to develop 100 hectares on the site provoked outrage, but the full picture of plans to develop «the biggest metropolitan park in Europe» are even grimmer. In the specifications for an international competition to recruit architects and urban planners, the «building density index» has increased from 0.8 to 1 (where 1 indicates 100 hectares, developers have the right to build 100 square meters of property). This change has granted developers the right to construct an extra 200,000 square meters. And in total, 1 million square meters of property can be set up across Hellenikon (not including the 325,000 square meters accounted for by buildings already on the site). At the same time, the authority’s specifications do not set any kind of limit regarding the height of buildings, setting the scene for high-rise office blocks, of the type to be seen along Kifissias Avenue, along the coastal front. Furthermore, using the excuse of «artistic freedom,» the authority has abandoned plans to transform the old airport building into an exhibition and conference center. According to the specifications, the firm conducting the study has the right to propose the construction of the conference center, along with the five-star hotel which would accompany it, on another section of land covering 17 hectares. In view of the above, and bearing in mind that the town-planning authority believes that «digging up existing air strips is economically inadvisable, they should rather be maintained and integrated into the operation of the park,» it is evident that creating green spaces within the site is a secondary concern when faced with the profits that construction firms stand to make. Indeed, the study effectively gives these firms carte blanche as the 100 hectares to be developed will be distributed across the most privileged areas. More specifically, there are plans to build office blocks and upmarket stores in the northeastern section of the site, toward Vouliagmenis Avenue, while the eastern section will be a site for restaurants, cafes, entertainment arcades and multiscreen cinemas. In the southern zone opposite the Glyfada golf course – referred to as «the most expensive section» in the text of the specifications – there are plans to build luxury homes, maisonettes and apartments which will cost up to 4,000 euros per square meter. Finally, the northwestern section will be the site of a business park and a first-aid center. The total cost of creating the park is set at 400 million euros, while the location of the various businesses should be such that «the income gained by development of the contracting firm should exceed the park’s cost of construction and maintenance by 300 million euros.» The deadline for the submission of proposals by competing firms is March 17 – 10 days after the elections. And if the next government decides not to follow the plan through, the Greek taxpayer will have been burdened with at least 300,000 euros.

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