Athens’s 16-million-euro parking garage opens at Kerameikos

Under normal circumstances, the inauguration of a multistory parking garage would not be not newsworthy. But the case of the new facility opened by Athens metro operator Attiko Metro in the downtown area of Kerameikos is somewhat unique. The underground parking garage is located on the original site for the Kerameikos metro station, which was then moved 300 meters away due to archaeological discoveries.

The plot on the corner of Pireos and Iera Odos streets lay unused for years until finally things got moving and the underground parking garage opened in early March. It has five stories, with each level measuring 2,500 square meters and with a capacity for 274 vehicles. It is open 24 hours a day (a wise decision considering it is located close to one of the capital’s busiest nightlife districts) and is reasonably priced: starting at 2 euros for metro passengers (who have to display their tickets) or 3 euros for everyone else from 6 to 9 p.m., and up to 5 euros from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The ground-level “roof” of the parking garage has been turned into a green space and ceded back to the City of Athens, which originally owned the plot.

The story of the parking lot is strange, aside from the fact that the facility has been ready for several years but didn’t open until now. To begin with, it was built simply as a way to hold on to European Union funding. According to the original plans in the 1980s, the plot was intended for the new Kerameikos metro station, which is now on the main square in the nearby Gazi district. Excavations began in 1992 and the metro tunnel was supposed to run 20 meters underground, well below the level that the majority of antiquities in central Athens were found at. But archaeologists had expressed serious reservations about the location because of its proximity to the Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos.

As it turned out, they were right. After five years, the excavations hit the western end of the cemetery, prompting a scramble to find a new site for the station that took on such controversial proportions that it was taken as far as the European Parliament. In 1997, the Central Archaeological Council laid the matter to rest by prohibiting the construction of a tunnel beneath Kerameikos. In the meantime, however, Attiko Metro had started the building the station’s shell, spending some 5.8 million euros on that phase of the project.

The station was moved, some 300 meters away, to Gazi. But if precious European funding for the project was not to be lost, something had to be made of the shell at Pireos and Iera Odos which had to be linked in some way to the operation of the metro. The decision for a parking garage was reached in 2007 and a tender was launched. The budget was 8.3 million euros with a 2009 completion date.

However, years of abandonment had turned the huge hole dug for the station into a massive pool, affecting the structural integrity of the shell in which the five-story car park would be constructed. The contractor had to carry out additional construction, raising the budget by an additional 978,000 euros. He claimed the cost to have been higher and took the matter to court, where he was this year awarded an additional 419,000 euros on top of his claim.

Therefore, adding the initial cost of 5.8 million euros for the station’s shell, the overall tab for the parking lot has come to 15.8 million euros, when the car park at the Syngrou-Fix metro station, for example, cost 13.2 million euros and has more than double the capacity, at 642 slots. So, when you park your car at the new car park, remember that your space cost the state 57,400 euros.

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