The day after: Six major works seek completion

Work will continue now that the Olympics are over, as provided for by four presidential decrees passed two and four years ago, in three areas that will prove to be decisive for the quality of life in Attica: Faliron Bay and Aghios Cosmas in Athens, Schinias and Markopoulo. The presidential decrees provided for two phases to the projects, pre- and post-Olympic, thus ensuring that the works in crucial areas will be delivered in their final shape and form for residents to stroll, take exercise and recreation and hold cultural events in. The presidential decrees, which defined land use in the areas, were aimed not only at the continuation of the works but at protection from activities and uses that would not benefit Athens residents. On the Faliron coastal strip, the presidential decrees were not limited to the building of Olympic venues, while the same applies to Schinias: The project extends well beyond the rowing center itself. The presidential decree signed in 2000 for Schinias provided for the rowing center and the establishment of a national park. Two years later, two more presidential decrees laid the basis for the creation of an ecological park on Faliron Bay and a coastal park, together with the Olympic sailing venue, at Aghios Cosmas. A further presidential decree provides for the transformation of the Equestrian Center at Markopoulo into an athletic, tourist and recreational center for all of Attica. These four projects, in addition to the old racecourse at Kallithea and the former airport at Hellenikon, present a huge challenge for the post-Olympic period. All six areas have already been discussed by government officials and local authority representatives. Both sides agree that the expanses are of vital importance to Attica, but other issues have not been settled – not even the government body to carry out the works. However, land uses and activities for the four areas have been clearly defined by the presidential decrees. Dialogue Even though ownership of these areas rests with Hellenic Tourism Properties (ETA) and Hellenic Olympic Properties (HOP), the continuation and, above all, the exploitation of the works in those areas will be, at first, a matter of political decision by the competent ministries. Discussion between the government and the local authorities on related issues began, haltingly, in the first week of September. Though both sides agree that the areas should be for the benefit of Attica residents, the cost of finishing the works, as well as maintenance and operational costs, remains vague. The administrative structure and the bodies responsible for the area uses have also not been determined. The uses themselves remain somewhat up in the air. Nevertheless, the presidential decrees exist and despite various demands for amendments, they serve as protection for these areas. Faliron Bay: The area to be developed, which belongs mostly to Hellenic Olympic Properties and to a smaller extent to the Defense Ministry, is divided into three zones. The basic post-Olympic project that remains to be carried out is the ecological park and the construction of an open-air swimming area. An even more important work is the canal in the Moschato area, which is designed to protect Moschato and Tzitzifies from flooding. In addition, the present coastal flyover will be moved from its current position, according to the presidential decree. The works will be accompanied by changes to the 1,400-meter-long shoreline, which will be completed by 2006. The canal eventually will be 56.5 meters wide and 4 meters deep, and will form an outlet for floodwaters from the River Ilissos and the Moschato and Kallithea floodwater channels. During construction of the Olympic venues, work on the canal commenced at three points (the Ilissos, Moschato and Kallithea). Once completed, the project will form two small islands, one of which will host the ecological park and the open-air swimming area, while in the second there will be cultural and athletic installations and a maritime sports facility. The coastal Poseidonos Avenue will pass behind the two islands after work on the canal is finished. – In the first zone, there will be sports venues, theaters, cinemas, conference halls, cultural buildings and refreshment stands. Zoning regulations do not envisage hotels, entertainment centers, golf courses, casinos or residential buildings. – In the second zone, which contains the central recreational area and the Esplanade, the area has been set aside for a maritime sports center. Aghios Cosmas: In the Aghios Cosmas area (which the previous government had handed over to ETA), and during the construction of Olympic venues, some works and buildings were slashed as major changes to the original scheme. This satisfied the residents and municipal authority in the area, since the plethora of building installations provided for by the presidential decree essentially negated the creation of a coastal park as stipulated by the same presidential decree. Building is projected to cover 9,000 square meters out of the total area of 40,000 square meters. Since the presidential decree in force allows buildings to cover up to 33,000 square meters of ground, the mayor of Hellenikon, Iordanis Ephraimidis, is seeking an amendment that will stipulate the smaller area. The area will be divided into two zones, each of which will be divided into two areas, with different land uses permitted. – The first zone will host tourist facilities, recreation and maritime sports. Two sectors will accommodate tourist and recreational facilities, but not hotels, entertainment centers, golf courses, casinos, car parks and mass transit facilities. Also permitted are facilities for use by the National Sailing Federation and local sailing clubs. – The second zone is the coastal park itself. Outdoor cultural and athletic facilities, changing rooms, toilets and canteens will be permitted in the first area. Construction of outdoor cultural and sports facilities will be allowed in a second sector, but most of it will be open space where no building is allowed. Post-Olympic use of the old airport and racecourse are still undecided. Racecourse: The State’s real estate service has handed over 18 hectares to the Municipality of Kallithea, which must be surrendered to the local authority six months after the end of the Olympic Games. Only athletic and cultural facilities will be permitted on the site, which is to be maintained as a park, in accordance with the intentions of the municipal authority of Kallithea. But funding to revamp and exploit the area remains a major problem. Old airport: The 550 hectares of the old airport at Hellenikon remains the Gordian knot of post-Olympic planning. The current government has kept its cards very close to its chest. Before the elections, current Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis pledged to accept municipalities’ proposals to turn the whole area into a park. But the Public Works and Planning Ministry (YPEHODE) has presented the results of an international architectural competition which provides for a 100-hectare housing development and a park on the other 82 percent of the area. Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis has already agreed.