Athinas Street primed for facelift

Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis yesterday heralded the pedestrianization of Athinas Street, one of the capital’s busiest commercial roads, as part of a bid to spruce up the city over the next two years. Kaklamanis announced the plan following a meeting with the head of a committee overseeing the unification of the capital’s archaeological sites, Kyriakos Griveas, as well as store owners and traders from the area. The project would take place alongside current works to upgrade the adjacent rundown Monastiraki Square, due to be completed in September. «The pedestrianization of Athinas Street and improvement of areas surrounding Monastiraki Square will dramatically change the look of the city’s historic center,» Kaklamanis said. Local store owners and merchants who participated in the meeting did not object to the plans in principle but expressed concerns about how their supplies would be delivered if Athinas Street is pedestrianized. Tradesmen debated the planned changes in the street after the meeting. «It’s all very well to gentrify the area but how will the trucks that deliver my produce reach my store?» a trader from the central Varvakeio Market remarked to a television reporter. The proposed changes would not only affect businesses on Athinas Street itself – dominated by the meat, fish and vegetable markets, as well as food and clothing outlets – but also traders from adjacent areas, including owners of tourist shops and cafes in Psyrri and Plaka. But both Kaklamanis and Griveas stressed that the shopkeepers’ concerns would be addressed and that a solution would be found. «Today’s meeting was held specifically for that reason, so that any problems could be documented and we could start making specific proposals so that the works can begin,» Griveas said. The pedestrianization of Athinas Street has been proposed in the past but plans have always stumbled upon local tradesmen’s objections. If this project goes ahead, it is expected to be completed by 2010. Monastiraki Square, cordoned off from the public since last November for renovation works, is due to reopen in September.