Minister reins in Votanikos project

The saga over the construction of a sports complex and accompanying shopping mall in the rundown central Athens district of Votanikos took another turn yesterday as the Environment Ministry put forward a new proposal that would limit both the sporting and commercial facilities to be constructed. Environment Minister Tina Birbili said the basketball stadium that was due to be part of the complex, which will also include a new ground for Panathinaikos soccer club, will not be constructed. A shopping mall due to be erected on the site will be reduced by about 25 percent (to 51,700 square meters instead of 69,000) and a 1,000 sq.m. building intended to host Panathinaikos souvenir shops will not be constructed at all. The new plans will be submitted to the Council of State for approval. The project to build the sports complex and shopping mall has been tied to the regeneration of the site of Panathinaikos’s former ground on Alexandras Avenue. Authorities gave the go-ahead for the former’s construction after it was agreed that the old ground would be knocked down and a green space created in its place. In the plans presented by Birbili yesterday, a proviso has been added that, for construction on the new soccer stadium at Votanikos to begin, the old one on Alexandras must first be razed. She said no public funds would be spent on the project. «We have tried to solve a situation that has reached a dead end,» said the minister. «Our first goal has been to secure the double regeneration so that the Alexandras Avenue site is handed over to Athenians and Panathinaikos builds its new stadium at Votanikos.» Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who has actively backed the scheme over the past few years, applauded Birbilis’s proposal, even though it states that plans to build new municipal headquarters be scrapped.

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