Athens facelift on the cards?

City planners are reviewing a program intended to make the Greek capital more accessible and less polluted for its 4 million residents, sources said yesterday. Sources at the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) told Kathimerini that this plan is supposed to replicate the urban renewal Barcelona experienced after it hosted the 1992 Olympic Games. Post-Olympic Barcelona upgraded its neighborhoods and restricted urban sprawl. Poor urban planning as well as a growing population has hurt the quality of life in Athens and turned it into one of the European Union’s most heavily polluted cities. The plan includes limiting new businesses operating in the city’s central districts and coordinating land planning in Athens with surrounding communities. Officials last drafted a plan to change the city’s landscape in 1985. However, many of the measures were not implemented, mainly because the capital was undergoing many changes, especially after preparations for the Olympic Games began. «This sort of planning has an expiry date as it is based on economic, social and political developments that are a broader part of the country’s framework,» said Yiannis Polizos, head of the Urban Environment Laboratory at the National Technical University of Athens. «The way in which Athens is developing has changed.» Developments from the program’s revision can be expected this year, officials estimate. City planners are hoping to improve Athens’s international profile by involving the city in high-profile events and creating infrastructure projects. They also hope to offer incentives to businesses to operate outside the city center.