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The revival of Athens

21 March 2012 / 17:03:01  GRReporter
3381 reads

Victoria Mindova 

An infrastructure project to reform the centre of Athens is expected to revive the city. Panepistimiou Street, which is one of the main thoroughfares in the heart of Athens, will be turned into a walkway with tram and bicycle routes. The movement of cars in Panepistimiou will be cut from Omonia Square to Amalias Avenue, which is in close proximity to the modern Acropolis Museum. This is the purpose of the project "Rethink Athens", aimed at renovating and reviving the face of Athens and making it more enjoyable and comfortable for the residents and visitors of the capital.

"The best way to predict the future is to plan it ourselves," said Panagiotis Tomikiotis, Professor of Architecture at the Polytechnic School of Athens, who is assisting in transforming the city. He did not deny that the reconstruction of Panepistimiou is a bold initiative, but stressed that the reconstruction of the centre of Athens will give a new impetus to life in the capital.

The historical centre of Athens has been declining for many years. The most serious problems remain illegal immigration, drug addicts and high crime rates - all in close proximity to ancient monuments and archaeological sites that are visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Because of these phenomena and the constant threat of protests and riots, the Greek metropolitan centre has ceased to be the first choice for entrepreneurs and households. Many commercial sites in the central parts of the city closed not only because of the crisis, but also because of security risks.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said that politicians owe it to the citizens and society to make the historic centre of the capital attractive and pleasant again for the visitors and residents of the city. The leader of the right New Democracy Antonis Samaras, who is expected to become prime minister soon, stressed that in recent years, Athens has become bleak, unorganized and even dangerous. He also supported the project for the renovation of the centre and said he would use all policy options to advance the initiative.

Representatives of all major political forces in Greece, part of the election campaign, which is expected to be completed in early May this year, attended the presentation of the project. The positive note of the initiative has driven the leaders of New Democracy, the Democratic Union, the Communist Party and other smaller political parties to present themselves in a more favourable light to the public, as supporters of the idea of ​​a more beautiful and clean city.
The Mayor of Athens George Kaminis and the Minister of Infrastructure Makis Voridis were no less enthusiastic about the modernization of the Greek capital in an environmentally friendly European city. Yet they did not fail to emphasize that unless the problem of illegal immigration and increased crime is definitively solved, no infrastructure project will revive and restore the impaired city of Athens. Voridis did not fail to note that the constant strikes and protests in the central parts of the city hurt entrepreneurship and tourism in Athens as much as the increased crime. He stressed that to avoid these plans remaining on paper, a comprehensive policy is necessary to address the problems in the centre of Athens.

The Alexander Onassis Foundation has undertaken the implementation and funding of the initial phase of the project, which consists of the organization and selection of an architectural design. For this purpose, the Foundation has announced a European competition, which will take place in two stages. The first will accept anonymous designs from architects and architectural groups, which will develop detailed plans for the reconstruction of the specified area. Six or eight of the best ideas submitted will be singled out for the second stage and then they, in turn, will be reduced to three. Finally, the most successful design will be selected but a consolation prize will be awarded to the most daring and innovative architectural design, which it has not been possible to implement.

"There is no assurance that this research will remain on the shelves of any ministry, but we will enforce all possible pressure to implement the project," stated the head of the management board of the Alexander Onassis Foundation Antonis Papadimitriou. The process of selecting the design will last one year and then its immediate execution will be undertaken. It will be run as a public-private partnership and the Foundation estimated that the construction of tramways in the first section between Alexandras and Amalias avenues would cost around 25,000 euro. Later, the tramway is expected to reach the area of ​​Ano Patisia and the total cost of its construction will be around 200 million euro. The current Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy George Papaconstantinou said that the project will be partially funded from EU funds, without specifying the amount of grants.


Tags: SocietyAthenian centreReconstructionRethink AthensPanepistimiouCrimeTram
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