NEWS

Reconstruction and new coast road altered the face of the district

The properties became run-down during the war, and the area began to lose its glamour. «The Jews had disappeared, lots of buildings were requisitioned and others were deserted,» said Aleka Gerolymbou, who teaches architecture at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. She experienced the transformation of the area as a resident. «We used to climb over the walls and the gardens had run wild. Fine houses that were falling apart were inhabited only upstairs. The roads were full of potholes with mud and water. The trams and the cobblestone road were pulled up [in 1957]. The district soon deteriorated and plots of land sold like hot cakes for reconstruction. Nobody cared to preserve them. Apartment blocks were seen as modernization: ‘Let’s get together, build high, get away from the soil and be comfortable,’» she said. The initial factor in the change, according to Gerolymbou, was reconstruction, which began in 1958 and peaked in the 1960s. Earthworks along the new coast road created new expanses of land and imposed linear development on what had been an indented shoreline. Then the tram was abolished and Vas. Olgas and Vas. Georgiou avenues were asphalted. The remaining buildings are unique examples of early 20th-century architecture but there aren’t enough of them to convey the feeling of the entire neighborhood. Thessaloniki has no district that reflects the old city with its engaging mix of religions and ethnicities. «Only three places could do that: the port with the Ladadika [a formerly industrial area now devoted to dining and nightlife], the Upper Town, and the mansion district,» noted Gerolymbou. «Unfortunately the Lladadika has become an unattractive Soho. The port is at risk from new projects and the underwater tunnel. The Upper Town has lost its appeal because of the huge buildings that have sprung up there despite protection orders. And the few listed buildings are not sufficient to convey the spirit of genteel Thessaloniki.»