IPE-IOBE study shows area will suffer if factories relocate

Change is taking place rapidly. In spring of 2007, two new metro stations will open, one in Votanikos (Gazi station) and another in Elaionas (Panathinaikos). Attiko Metro has also contracted for the construction of an 8.8-hectare train depot at Elaionas, which is scheduled for delivery by the end of next year. Bus terminal A little to the west, construction of a new KTEL intercity bus terminal is planned. «The new terminal will serve the 32 KTEL buses now at Kifissou and the 11 now at Liosion, and is estimated to cater to 35-40,000 passengers a day,» Kifissou KTEL’s president, Sofoklis Fatsios, told Kathimerini. «The station will cover 9 hectares, of which 2.2 hectares will be devoted to stores. The construction budget is 50 million euros and completion time is 18 months.» All the studies for the new terminal have been finished but the project has struck a snag. «The studies were submitted in 2004. We are waiting for the Ministry of the Environment, Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) to decide.» It has also been decided to build a mosque on a 12.1-hectare plot owned by the Navy Chiefs of Staff. These interventions in the center of an area that many consider to have been deliberately run down, have already affected the price of real estate. And the expansion toward the west of a new residential and entertainment center from Gazi to Votanikos and the neighborhood of Akadimia Platonos (Plato’s Academy), as well as the creation of an entertainment center in Rendi have begun to exert pressure on the area around Elaionas. «The cleanup of the area, which was decided in two presidential decrees (1049 D/95 and 742 D/96) did not go ahead,» analyst Eleni Grigoriou from the Athens Chamber of Industry told Kathimerini. «The municipalities involved (Athens, Tavros, Rendi, Peristeri and Aegaleo) have implemented the decrees only to a very limited extent and in substance things have remained the way they were. In fact, in recent years, the municipalities have been pushing in the reverse direction, to change land use so as to get rid of the factories and permit the creation of entertainment areas.» According to a study by the Regional Development Institute (IPE) and the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), removing the factories from Elaionas would have unfavorable consequences. «It isn’t realistic to ask the factories to leave Elaionas,» Panteion University Vice Rector Thanassis Papadaskalopoulos and lecturer Manolis Christofakis told Kathimerini. «The Elaionas area has retained its economic strength and still has businesses in primary and tertiary industries that make a significant contribution to employment and incomes on a local and regional level. We believe that its productive character should be preserved by the reorganization of land use and the designation of zones for each type of activity.» The 1995 presidential decree stipulates that tanneries, metal-plating works, pottery kilns and cement factories must leave Elaionas by November 2007. But the IPE-IOBE study deems that implementing the decision without first arranging a site for them to transfer to will create serious problems in the market. The study, which was conducted on behalf of the Athens Regulatory Plan Organization, found there are some 2,500 businesses in Elaionas, of which around 40 percent are medium-sized. On average, the businesses have been in operation for 20 years. Given the anarchic development of the area, and the new dynamic arising from the projects, it is vital that not only Votanikos but also the area surrounding Elaionas be better organized. «There is no organized strategy, but many municipalities are exerting pressure in different directions because they have different plans for the area,» said Papadaskalopoulos. «But this is not the way to achieve the right development of economic activity, or to find fertile ground for large projects.» «Land use is a mess at Elaionas now,» architect Ivi Nanopoulou told Kathimerini. «The position of the Panathinaikos soccer stadium creates a new dynamic but it is a local project that does not guarantee any broader development. This is where the state should come in and deal with the area as a whole, as they did in London with Wembley Stadium. There must be a strategic plan for the market to follow, rather than letting the market shape the area.»

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