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Athens Honors the Past While Forging a Sustainable Future

by Eugenia Lazaris

May 10, 2023

PHOTOS: © SASAKI

April/May 2023

For 5,000 years Athens has witnessed the ever-changing needs of civilization. While monumental ruins like the Acropolis stood sentinel, the city grew and changed. Led by a population that has historically been a harbinger of innovation and growth, the city continues to evolve with new ways to approach the future, improve life and protect the planet.

Recently the city embarked on an urban regeneration project known as The Ellinikon that will take place on an unprecedented scale. Already changing the face of the city, this massive development project will set a worldwide precedent for how a metropolis can tackle the issues of tomorrow and serve as a global model for sustainability and comprehensive mixed-use urban experiences.

The Ellinikon is the largest development project in Greece’s history, if not all of Europe. Led by Lamda Group, it will exist as a city within a city … a smart city blending nature, necessity and technology into a place where citizens and visitors can thrive, coexist with nature and reduce the damaging impact of civilization on Earth.

When Lamda Group purchased the property from the Greek government in 2014, the area, situated along the Athenian Riviera, sat in a state of ruin and disrepair. Comprising more than 1,500 acres, it housed the city’s first airport, which began operating in 1938. Over the years the land served many purposes: an airbase during the Nazi invasion of Greece from 1941 to 1944, a U.S. military base following the war, a safe harbor for various refugee groups and even the site of events at the 2004 Olympic Games.

© SASAKI

More than 400 buildings existed on the site when construction began in 2021. Nearly all will be demolished, but a few will remain, such as three historical airplane hangars. One is currently in use as Experience Centre, an interactive space dedicated to showing visitors what to expect from the project’s state-of-the-art technologies and strategies. In time, all three hangars will serve as cultural centers, honoring Greek heritage and the history of the site itself.

All materials are being cleaned at on-site facilities to be repurposed in the development. The spaces already in use benefit from this, with old concrete making new walkways and sculpture gardens in the area known as Experience Park. It will eventually be expanded into the 600-acre Ellinikon Park, the core of the development.

This cleaning of building materials proves key to the project’s environmental focus and extends to the land itself to ensure it meets the highest environmental and safety standards after years of use as an airport. These standards and practices will remain in place with facilities for composting and water treatment.

PHOTO: © DBOX

Green areas, making up 70 percent of the total space, will dominate the development, incorporating strategies like bioclimatic architecture on buildings such as Riviera Tower, a 600-foot-tall skyscraper — the first of its kind for Greece with 50 residential floors — that will feature sustainably designed suspended gardens. The overall effect of so much green space within a metropolitan city will prove significant, lowering temperatures, reducing pollution levels and fostering a connection with nature.

Anticipated to take 25 years to complete, the project will unveil phases in five-year increments. The result will encompass private residences, meeting spaces, luxury hotels, shopping districts, schools and healthcare facilities, athletic facilities, indoor and outdoor entertainment and cultural centers, a public beach, a marina and a casino. The first phase, begun in 2021 and expected to be operational by 2026, includes People With Disabilities Building — a first of its kind for Greece — expected to open this summer.

Numerous innovative infrastructures are designed to make life more efficient and sustainable on every level, with technologies like the country’s first smart park, seamless connectivity, AR navigation and smart energy systems, making it a true city of the future. A first- of-its-kind smart irrigation system will clean sewage water to be reused in irrigating the development’s green areas. The project will restore once-blocked ancient streams and pair them with state-of-the-art drainage systems to ensure efficient water flow even during times of heavy rain.

Thirty miles of walkways and bike paths, along with a tram connecting the waterfront to inland areas, will make it a 15-minute city, meaning anyone can get from one point to any other within 15 minutes. Additionally, tram lines will connect the development with the rest of Athens, allowing for seamless integration with the city.

In line with the greenery goals of the project, all landscaping will use native plants able to withstand hot Athenian summers. More than 2,000 trees that existed pre-construction will be transplanted to a nursery for safekeeping until the development is ready for their return. Much of the funding for this €8 billion urban redevelopment came from private investments and strategic alliances; however, the project also received funding from bonds, such as a €230 million Green Bond issued in 2022. The Ellinikon will have far-reaching economic impacts on Athens, some of which are already being felt. The project is expected to create 10,000 temporary construction jobs and a whopping 75,000 permanent jobs once fully completed.

As The Ellinikon comes to fruition over the next two decades, it will change the city forever. As surrounding districts work to update their own infrastructures and the economy reaps the benefits, it will be exciting to see which cities will follow suit and take charge of the future health and happiness of citizens and the planet they call home.

PHOTO: © LAMDA DEVELOPMENT

CHECKING IN WITH MELINA PAIZI
Chief Development and Investment Portfolio Officer, Lamda Development

As The Ellinikon changes the face of the city, how will it impact Greece’s economy?
Our vision is for The Ellinikon to benefit all and be a symbol of a new era for Greece. Through completion, this €8 billion project is expected to contribute 2.4 percent to the country’s gross domestic product while providing more than €14 billion in tax revenues to the state. The Ellinikon will promote an inclusive economy, with access to jobs and training. We believe the country’s investment attractiveness is improving rapidly and, of course, The Ellinikon will be included among the key drivers of growth, accelerating economic growth in Greece, both at macroeco nomic and microeconomic levels.

What types of commerce will Athens attract with The Ellinikon?
The Ellinikon’s retail district will provide a new consumer approach to the modern retail experience for high-end and mid-range price points that will attract more than 1 million tourists and 20 million visitors the first year of operation and is targeted toward local Greeks and international audiences alike. This includes numerous globally renowned food and beverage partners, many already signed on.

At more than 185,000 square meters, Commercial Hub will be the biggest mall in Greece, designed by Aedas. It will target and achieve LEED Gold certification, the first for a mall in Greece. Envisioned as the shopping center of the future, it will set a new benchmark for retail destinations across Europe and continuously enhance the quality of consumer experiences, the performance of brands and the return to investors and the local community. It will be a unique family destination for shopping and entertainment, with technology driving the leisure found within and sustainability and innovation leading design.

© BLOOMIMAGES

Riviera Galleria, designed by award-winning Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, is a unique destination for premium brands, situated at the heart of the Athenian Riviera alongside the coast’s newest residential enclave. It will feature top Greek and foreign designers’ boutiques, haute couture and high street fashion. Dining options will offer breathtaking sea views from the first-level verandas as well as a variety of spots including award-winning restaurants, elegant cafés and bistros. Major cultural and music events, art exhibitions and fashion festivals will also be held here, as every moment spent at Riviera Galleria is an opportunity to inspire and entertain both visitors and residents alike. Riviera Galleria successfully completed LEED Precertification at a Gold level.

Greece is a country unlike any other. When planning its newest development, did any pre- existing projects elsewhere in the world inspire The Ellinikon?
The Ellinikon is a landmark development project for Greece, Europe and the world. We are mainly inspired by the pressing need, as a society, to rethink the way we live in the face of climate change. The Ellinikon is the largest urban regeneration investment in Greece’s history and among the largest in Europe. The superlatives abound, and this place will make Greeks proud and inspire the world.

DIVERSIONS
Boasting thousands of years of history, Athens offers some of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights. A visit to the Acropolis is a must, where you can take in a 360-degree view of the city before heading to the nearby Acropolis Museum. The museum’s lower floors house many of the artifacts excavated from the slopes of the Acropolis. Glass-paneled floors and an open-air exhibit under the museum allow you to see recently excavated areas, including an ancient Athenian neighborhood uncovered during the museum’s construction.

© WITOLD RYKA | DREAMSTIME.COM

No visit to Athens is complete without taking a drive along the Athenian Riviera to experience the magnificence of the Temple of Sounion. This shrine to the god Poseidon, which sits on a small peninsula overlooking the Aegean Sea, offers the perfect way to take a break from the fast pace of the city and enjoy the Golden Hour while you relax and watch the sunset.

LODGING

A for Athens
Located in the heart of the popular Monastiraki neighborhood, this trendy hotel offers stunning views of the Acropolis and a rooftop bar overlooking the city.
2-4 Miaouli St., Monastiraki, Athens
$$$$

Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel
Tucked away on a woodsy peninsula along the Athenian Riviera, Astir Palace proves the perfect peaceful getaway from the hectic pace of the bustling metropolis.
40 Apollonos St., Vouliagmeni, Athens
$$$$$

Hotel Grande Bretagne
Serving the city’s visiting elite since 1874, this landmark hotel enjoys a prime location next to Syntagma Square, the parliament building and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
1 Vasileos Georgiou A’ St., Syntagma Square, Athens
$$$$$

DINING

Delta
Sustainability, gastronomy and culture are the goals at this upscale eatery where diners enjoy a 12-course experience designed and curated by chefs George Papazacharias and Thanos Feskos.
364 Syggrou Ave., Kalithea, Athens
$$$$$

Dopios
Led by Chef Christoforos Peskias, this popular eatery serves creative Greek meze. In addition to unique twists on traditional dishes, you can find stellar vegan offerings.
1 Skouleniou, Platia Agion Theodoron, Athens
$$–$$$

Orizontes
Sitting atop Lycabettus Hill, Orizontes features traditional Greek dishes served on a patio with views of the entire city, with the Acropolis nestled against a backdrop of the Aegean Sea.
1 Aristippou, Lycabettus, Athens
$$$–$$$$$

JUST THE FACTS
Time zone: GMT +2
Phone code: Country code: 30 City code: 210
Currency: Euro
Key industries: Tourism, agri- culture, shipping and mining

COMING AND GOING
To enter Greece, U.S. citizens must have a return ticket and a valid passport good for at least six months. No tourist visa required if staying less than 90 days.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
Greek

INFO TO GO
Eleftherios Venizelos, also known as Athens International Airport, provides services to 154 destinations through 66 carriers. Getting to and from the airport is simple using any of the city’s efficient public transportation options. City buses depart frequently from the Arrivals terminal between exits 4 and 5 and bring returning passengers to the Departures terminal. Four routes connect the airport with points throughout Athens and the nearby port of Pireaus, and bus services operate at all hours. The Metro subway also links the city with the airport via the Blue Line (Line 3), connecting downtown with the Green and Red lines to access other neighborhoods.

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