Former airport appears to be in for building spree as profits dictate plans

Big players in the construction industry are already jockeying for position to grab a share of the old Athens Airport at Hellenikon, given that a fifth of the area will be handed over for construction. In spite of the strict secrecy surrounding the participants in the architectural competition now in progress, large construction companies are already drawing up plans, seeing in Hellenikon the potential for further enrichment. The subsidiary companies of banks, active in real estate, are showing especial interest, while there is even talk of erecting tall buildings. Architects and surveyors’ offices today – and construction companies in the future – have been handed 100 hectares out of the total 500 hectares to play with. Government officials are keen to point out that this leaves 400 hectares free. But park design specifications that have been submitted to architects’ offices seem to point to no such thing. One of them stipulates that the park should cost little to create and maintain. Projected profit for contractors should come to at least 300,000,000 euros. Concerns about costs underlie the proposal to keep existing takeoff and landing strips (which cover a large part of the area). It is estimated that the removal of all hard surfaces would cost 5.1 million euros. But surveyors will be given carte blanche to develop the 100 hectares in order to achieve the best result, financially speaking. The total area set aside for construction might reach a million square meters, equivalent to 8,000 apartments of 120 square meters apiece. The expanse opposite the golf course at Glyfada, regarded as the most expensive part of the area, is where luxury apartment blocks – maisonettes or entire-floor flats – will be built. They are expected to cost 4,000 euros per square meter. In the northeastern section, toward Vouliagmenis Avenue, there are plans to build upmarket office blocks and stores, while the eastern section will sport multiplex cinemas, restaurants, cafes and electronic games arcades. A business park will be sited in the northwestern section, while there will also be a first-aid center. As for planting greenery to cool the Athens climate, the Athens town-planning study says the impact will be small. «A large park,» it underscores, «would be able to freshen the sea and mountain air, but will not be able to make any noticeable change to the macroclimatic conditions in the Athens basin as a whole.» Obviously, that’s why the park won’t be a big one. But on the other hand, the study’s authors admit that «if Hellenikon were to be properly planted, then it could lower average temperatures in the Athens basin by 1 Celsius.»