NEWS

Steps to return city to the people

Work could begin later this year to pedestrianize another part of central Athens and to improve the areas around Omonia Square, which have become run-down in recent years, the government said yesterday, as it also unveiled plans to give the public access to a previously fenced-off stretch of coastline in southern Athens. Environment Minister Tina Birbili said that the scheme for central Athens has two parts. The first is to pedestrianize Vassilissis Olgas Avenue, linking the Panathenaic Stadium with Amalias Avenue. This would allow for the creation of a 4-kilometer walkway from Pireos Street to Hadrian’s Arch. Birbili said that the government aims to launch a tender for the project later this year. The other part of the plan will see a competition launched for architects to come up with ideas of how to upgrade the area around Theatrou Square and Menandrou Street near Omonia. The district has become synonymous with drug dealing, prostitution and petty crime in recent years. Birbili said that an effort would also be made to establish lines of communication with the people that live and work in the area. The minister hopes that this project will also get off the ground before the end of this year. At the start of the day, Birbili was in Aghios Cosmas in southern Athens, where along with Prime Minister George Papandreou she witnessed the demolition of an abandoned nightclub. Birbili said it was part of a move to provide the public with free access to two kilometers of beaches. «In 15 days, Athenians will be able to visit three beautiful beaches, which I just discovered as they had been fenced off, and have a swim without having to pay an entrance fee,» the minister said.