NEWS

Facelift for Athens’s center in time for the Olympics

Just two years before the landmark year of 2004, when Athens is due to host the Olympic Games, the Organization for the Unification of Athens’s Archaeological Sites (EAXA SA), set up by the Culture and Environment ministries, is taking many of the city’s dilapidated buildings under its wing. Priority is being given, naturally, to the more historic buildings in need of repair, but EAXA is also giving its attention to later, less appreciated buildings of the postwar period. The program includes a still unspecified number of buildings (the list is growing all the time) and is part of the organization’s more low-key projects. It is due to begin in earnest this spring with a refurbishment of the facades of 20 buildings in Stadiou Street, including the historic National Printing Service (on which work began in the 1990s but was later abandoned) and the Athinogenous Mansion. Both are in one of the most neglected and downmarket sectors of this central avenue, stretching from Hafteia (near Omonia Square) to Klafthmonos Square. Most of the other buildings due for refurbishment are also in this area. Generally, the buildings’ owners have been cooperative. However, the proprietors of two dilapidated neoclassical houses at the corner of Stadiou and Amerikis Street have refused to cooperate with EAXA, claiming that procedures are under way to rent the buildings. Unfortunately for the city’s image, these procedures have been stalled for the past five years. EAXA has already made a tentative start with Athinas Street, by renovating the facades of two postwar buildings, one housing the headquarters of the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) and the Athens Water Company (EYDAP). Next in line is a group of neoclassical buildings, beginning with the Bageion and including the Hotel du Paris, which has been closed for some years. The aim is to have completed the pedestrian precinct of Athinas Street as far as Lykourgou Street. In the next few months, expect to see changes to three apartment buildings, dating from between the wars, on Amalias Avenue (Nos. 40, 42 and 44) and another building at 8 Syngrou Avenue dating from the same period. EAXA is also planning to work with Athens University on renovating the university’s main building, the Alexandros Nikoloudis University Club (at the corner of Academias and Ippocratous streets) and the Costis Palamas Building (at the corner of Academias and Sina streets). Work has also been proceeding apace on the removal of advertising hoardings from building facades in the historic and commercial center, resulting in a major improvement to the look of both Omonia and Syntagma squares. Work has also been proceeding apace on the removal of advertising hoardings from building facades in the historic and commercial center, resulting in a major improvement to the look of both Omonia and Syntagma squares.