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The Elliniko development saga continues

Another obstacle: archaeologists

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Artist impression of the seaside park of Elliniko, at the site of the old International Airport of Athens

07 September 2017

It's been more than 15 years when the last aeroplane took off from the Elliniko international airport of Athens, and the fate of the site still remains on hold. A plan for development, put forward last year, by a consortium of Greek, Chinese and Arab investors would see the old airport turning into a large seaside park (as big as Central Park in New York or the Royal Botanical Gardens) that would incorporate hangars and some of the edifices, such as the main building, designed by the seminal Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, which is considered a landmark of significant architectural and historical value.

However, development was once again stalled on Tuesday, by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) of the Ministry of Culture, which convened to determine whether any parts of the plot are of archaeological interest, according to Kathimerini.

The main building of the former East Terminal designed by renowned Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen.

The council is called to greenlight any major development, given Greece's status as a land of great archaeological value and its decition to postpone its decision and further discuss the matter caused concerns about the prospects of the 915-million-euro investment. This is the latest in a large number of obstacles and stalls, the most recent of which occurred in May, when when the Piraeus forestry authority deemed that a 3.7-hectare portion of the Elliniko plot is woodland and as such cannot be built on.If KAS declares the plot of archaeological interest, this would mean that investors would need to get dozens of permits for each section of the construction, further stalling development, if not effectively killing it altogether.

The main building of the former East Terminal designed by renowned Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen.

The project was launched by previous Greek governments and had met the fierce opposition of SYRIZA, the party which is now in power. However, Alexis Tsipras' government changed position and agreet to go forward, given that it will create thousands of jobs and draw some 8 billion euros in revenue. The project has since been approved by the Culture Ministry, as well as the Government Council for Economic Policy, while an independent study into the environmental impact of the project further dispelled concerns.At the moment, the site is left to abandon; the old edifices are used as an unofficial migrant camp, and the old buildings have been the target of looters.

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