New hope for refugee homes

The much-maligned but seemingly indestructible complex of apartment blocks for Asia Minor refugees in Ambelokipi, central Athens, could be set for a new lease on life according to a plan unveiled yesterday by the City of Athens and the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE). TEE has proposed to exchange its premises on Harilaou Trikoupi Street in Exarchia with an area of similar size in the Ambelokipi complex but with a commitment to help refurbish the apartments. The chamber’s president, Yiannis Alavanos, said that the site of TEE’s current headquarters would be turned into a park and in return it would take over some 8,000 square meters in Ambelokipi. The complex, made up of eight blocks, has a total floor space of 12,800 square meters. Alavanos added that his organization will take on the regeneration of the area, fixing up the buildings and looking after the green spaces. He added that TEE is committed to not altering the exterior of the buildings and that people already living in the apartments would not be affected. The chamber’s current headquarters, estimated to be worth 10 million euros, will be turned into a park by the City of Athens. The complex on Alexandras Avenue was built to house refugees from Asia Minor after the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1922. It had been the target of developers since 1967 and was threatened with demolition in recent years as only two of the buildings had been designated as listed. In November last year, the Culture Ministry’s Central Council for Contemporary Monuments voted by 14-1 to designate the remaining six as monuments. «Are we going to let an historic building collapse or are we going to intervene?» said Alavanos. «A groundbreaking intervention in the refugee homes could serve as an example for how such buildings can be looked after.» Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis declared his support for the project but there are still a number of details to be clarified, including how it will be funded. It is expected the process will cost some 20 millions euros.

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