Mayor heralds city center revamp

Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis yesterday heralded a series of town-planning projects aimed at revamping the city’s run-down historic center which, he conceded, is full of derelict buildings being exploited for illicit purposes. One of the key projects being planned by City Hall is the demolition of a building belonging to the Seamen’s Pension Fund (NAT) and the creation of a square in its place. Another initiative, mooted more than a year ago by the mayor, is the pedestrianization of Athinas Street and the gentrification of the squares coming off it. A similar facelift is on the cards for nearby Metaxourgeio while pedestrianization is also planned for a large section of Psyrri. Kaklamanis stressed that spiraling crime in the area – including the trade in drugs and prostitution rackets – posed a risk to public health and safety. Of some 250 brothels in the historic center, only seven are legal, he noted. The municipal police have recorded 1,640 abandoned buildings, he added, noting that many of these were either being used for illicit purposes or inhabited by destitute people – chiefly drug addicts and illegal immigrants. Several old hotels have received licenses to operate as «wellness centers» but are essentially brothels, he added. Meanwhile the illegal drug trade continues to flourish. The relocation of a Greek Organization Against Drugs (OKANA) facility out of the center has helped but another three local facilities must be moved to solve the problem, according to municipal officials. In a related development, it emerged that the National Technical University of Athens and a company set up by the state to coordinate the unification of the capital’s archaeological sites are planning the creation of a park covering 50 hectares. The park would take in the grounds of the National Gardens and other nearby sites. The pedestrianization of Vassilissis Olgas street is also under discussion.

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