An €8 billion investment project touted as Europe’s largest coastal park is expected to create a “smart” city within Greece’s capital and offer a much-needed green push, the mayor of Ellinikon, the site of the project, told EURACTIV Greece in an interview.
“The Ellinikon Park alone is expected to almost double the amount of public green space available to every Athenian. It will thus provide a much-desired environmental benefit to the capital, which will be enjoyed by both residents and visitors from around the world,” mayor Ioannis Konstantatos said.
The idea of the project, which will be implemented in the old airport of Athens, was initiated during the time of economic crisis.
The ultimate objective, the mayor said, is to make the city a “centre of universal attraction” while simultaneously preserving and modernising the historical local element.
The Lamda Development, a Greek real estate holding company, which has undertaken the investment and has already launched work to gradually implement it, has presented some parts of the investment to the general public.
“These include the architectural plans of the Marina Tower, the first green skyscraper in Greece, the Commercial Hub, a new commercial complex that will upgrade our quality of life, the Ellinikon Park, a park open to all, which will spread over two million square meters of green,” Konstantatos said.
“The park will be fourteen times the size of Athens’ National Garden, and even larger than London’s Hyde Park,” he noted.
Konstantatos also singled out a building that will host four associations for disabled people and added that all buildings will be constructed in line with environmentally friendly standards.
“They will provide visitors and local residents a lifestyle with less concrete and greener elements contrary to the modern megacities trends,” he said.
Earlier this month, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) decided to invest €20 million in Lamda Development’s inaugural green bond totalling €230 million.
The total demand from investors reached a record level of €718.5 million while more than 14,000 applications from private investors were submitted.
The result was seen as a significant sign of trust in the future of the project.
“We are very pleased with the EBRD’s participation in Greece’s first ever green listed bond. This transaction further cements our relationship with the EBRD, which we consider a strong partner in our journey to make The Ellinikon a benchmark project for sustainability and smart living,” said the CEO of Lamda Development, Odisseas Athanasiou.
According to mayor Konstantatos, the project also aims to attract one million new tourists annually.
“With a significant number of new architectural ‘landmarks’ and thematic tourism infrastructure combined with the marina, park and commercial developments, it is expected to attract one million new tourists annually,” the mayor said.
The mayor explained that the objective is to encourage tourists to stay longer and spend more in Athens.
“The project eyes multi-speed tourism. It will certainly attract the wealthy but it will also be accessible to all those who want to go for a walk and take some fresh air,” he said.
A benefit for local communities
In the more than ten years since the decision to green-light the project, several cancellation applications have been filed to the Council of State, both by those rejected in the procurement process and those who opposed the investment for different reasons.
The project is expected to contribute 2.5% to the country’s GDP and create 75,000 jobs, with tax revenues estimated at over €14 billion.
“Our local community can only see this investment positively,” the mayor said.
A particularly important advantage, he stressed, is that “the management body of Ellinikon is based in our municipality”.
“The body is called upon to manage all remunerative fees for the spaces within the investment and will have income from the entire process for the benefit of our fellow citizens,” he said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]