Grand cultural center for Athens

A deal was agreed upon yesterday between the government and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to build a 300-million-euro seafront cultural complex in the Faliron Delta in southern Athens that will finally provide the Greek National Opera (GNO) with a permanent home. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and representatives of the charitable foundation signed a memorandum of cooperation that will see the area around the crumbling racecourse in Faliron completely transformed. According to the plans, two 60,000-square-meter buildings will be constructed on the site to house the GNO and National Library of Greece. The GNO has been troubled in recent years by the lack of a permanent base and funding. A 12-hectare park will also be built on the land, which has hardly been used since the Olympic Games in 2004. «It is a visionary project which will cost some 300 million euros and will operate as a modern educational and cultural center,» said Karamanlis. «I hope that very soon we will have the joy of signing a contract for the start of construction.» The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, named after Greek shipping magnate Stavros Spyros Niarchos, was founded in 1996 and has supported a number of projects that promote Greek culture and heritage. The deal between the government and the philanthropic organization was due to be signed this fall but there are a number of administrative steps that need to be taken before work can begin. The park will be handed over to the local municipality of Kallithea, which means that the Greek Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) needs to complete the relevant paperwork for the ownership of the land to pass to the local authority. A separate body will also need to be set up to oversee the project and approve all the blueprints before work can begin at the site in southern Athens. The Municipality of Kallithea has also negotiated the handing over of another 2.8 hectares of land from the area around the racecourse as part of the deal to allow the cultural complex to be built on its doorstep. The government has agreed to build a sports complex on the land.

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