Alexandras Avenue and Votanikos are set to get greener

If it is true that Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis will likely abandon city hall for political center stage once three major issues are resolved, then her time of glory may be near. Two of those issues – moving the Panathinaikos Stadium from Alexandras Avenue to Elaionas and re-introducing parking meters – are in the works. The only thing that remains is developing a new waste management system. The Panathinaikos (PAO) move is significant because it involves restoring two important areas of the city – Votanikos and Alexandras Avenue. Last week the parties involved signed a preliminary agreement about the site of the new stadium. By the first half of 2008, Athenians will have access to 12 hectares of land at Votanikos and another two on the old stadium site on Alexandras Avenue, in the form of modern sporting facilities and parkland that will serve as a starting point for the renewal of other nearby areas such as Elaionas in western Athens and Goudi, near the center. Development in Elaionas appeared to be impossible until recently, despite repeated legislative amendments. Considering the hundreds of millions of euros needed for land expropriation and building demolition, as well as agreements to be reached with landowners, the Athens Municipality, the State, the National Bank of Greece and Panathinaikos have agreed on several conditions. These include: – a recreational area and park called the Goudi Metropolitan Park for residents of Athens, Papagou, Zografou, Kaisariani and Vyronas. – a park of 12 hectares in Votanikos and 1.7 hectares on Alexandras Avenue. – much-needed infrastructure projects in Votanikos and Elaionas. – a home ground for Panathinaikos within the municipality – new jobs for up to 4,000 people during the construction phase and up to 1,800 thereafter. – conditions enabling the exploitation of major transport infrastructure being developed by the state in the area, ensuring easy access to all means of transport and national highways. According to the initial design, the Votanikos project will cost 180-210 million euros, of which 30-60 million will be allocated for public utilities funded by the state. All the remaining works, to be built through self-funding or international competitions, are expected to cost 150 million euros. According to the framework of principles, the municipality of Athens will eventually have the right to the land, but for the first 99 years ownership will be held by a Special Purpose Company (EES) set up by the municipality in conjunction with the National Bank and which will be responsible for carrying out the project. Until such time as the capital funds have been paid off, Panathinaikos will grant the company the rights to 15 percent of all ticket revenues. A similar agreement will be in force until the completion of the project. Panathinaikos, which will lease the new stadium for 49 years as its home ground, guarantees a minimum yearly payment of 3.3 million euros for 20 years. At the same time, the EES and Panathinaikos will agree on an annual lease payment for the entire period based on the land uses agreed upon. The Votanikos project includes the construction of: – a sporting center that includes a 35,000-40,000 seat soccer stadium built to FIFA/UEFA four-star specifications, including auxiliary areas. – an indoor area underneath the grandstands for special sporting installations, an Olympic-size swimming pool and training areas suitable for the needs of Panathinaikos’s amateur branches. – in the second phase, an indoor stadium for basketball and volleyball games. – a shopping center in an existing building, as well as parking areas. On the site of the existing stadium on Alexandras Avenue, an underground parking station is to be built covered by a 1.7 hectare park, as well as 2,000 square meters of space for recreational and cultural activities and a museum on the history of the Panathinaikos soccer club.