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Montag, 15.07.2024
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The largest smart city built from the ground up in Europe is well underway, but it’s not in the usual-suspect destinations like London or Paris. Instead, this fully sustainable city is just 20 minutes from the Greek capital of Athens along the Athenian Riviera coastline. Dubbed a “15-minute city,” a reference to the fact that everyone will be within 15 minutes from all corners of the development, this mixed-use development will be home to many firsts. This includes the first (and tallest) skyscraper in Greece, the largest shopping mall in the country and the biggest coastal park in Europe more than doubling the amount of green space in the capital.

The Ellinikon, managed by Lamda Development, is being built on what was once the city’s international airport, which moved to another site in 2001. Its original runway will become a landscaped park, and its Eero Saarinen-designed terminal building will get a remodel to become an exhibition space hosting everything from meetings to social functions. Lambda is responsible for the country’s most luxe and glamorous malls, and The Ellinikon will eventually have the largest mall in the entire country, The Riviera Galleria, with more than 300 stores.

CEO Odysseus Athanassiou shares how the project, which began in 2013 and will open in 2026, is progressing. Estimates show that it will contribute nearly 2.5% of the entire Greek GDP to the country bringing one million foreign visitors annually and 14 million euros in incremental revenue. When the 6,200-acre project is fully complete in 2037, it will have brought 80,000 jobs and more than 10 billion euros in tax revenue to the country.

With its Riviera Tower (the tallest building in Greece and its first, high-rise residential tower) already fully sold, the focus is now on “Little Athens,” a residential project making up five complexes with homes featuring as many as five bedrooms. Many of the residential buildings will have retail and dining options on the ground level.

RQ: The project began a decade ago, how is it developing now?

OA: It’s an entire city of sorts with residential, dining, education and retail amenities just like what you would in a traditional city, except this one if fully sustainable. People will be riding bikes, walking (everything is within 15 minutes) or taking public transportation into town rather than driving cars although all residences come with parking. The city’s extensive metro network extends to this area making it easy for people to get around the city and taking only eight minutes to reach the center.

There is also an extensive beachfront, which is also open to the public, an urban park (part of which is on the original runway), cultural venues and a center for those with various disabilities. Tourists will be able to scan a QR code to follow a self-guided culture tour of the many monuments and important sites within the park like churches, an ancient tomb and one of the torches used during the 2004 Olympic Games. The marina that is part of the development hosted the sailing center during the global sporting event.

The Riviera residential tower is Greece’s tallest building and will have amazing views of the surrounding sea and mountain scenery. It is completely sold out, but Little Athens, another series of residential buildings still has availability and is drawing interest. Eventually, there will be more than 10,000 residences making up the entire development.

Other amenities within the development are an integrated casino complex, coastal promenade, and several new hotels. The goal of the entire development is to create something that is “future-proof,” something that can withstand developing environmental and commercial trends. There will eventually be space for more than 25,000 people to live and work here, which has become even more important since the remote working trend. By 2026, residents will begin moving into their new homes.

The park will be home to more than 31,000 trees representing 86 different species plus a million plants native to the Mediterranean region. Many of the trees are being grown in a nearby nursery before they moving them to the project and provide lush greenery and shade to residents and visitors. The goal is for the park to become completely carbon-neutral within the next four decades. It will be one of the largest coastal parks in the world and more than twice the size of Hyde Park in London. This also more than doubles the amount of green space for Athenians.

RQ: What other hotels are planned for the project?

OA: There will be more coming, but they have yet to be announced. Mandarin Oriental will open in 2027 and have its own branded residences. The Hard Rock will have more than 1,000 rooms and a substantial convention and events center. All of these hotels will support the many visitors that come to the development, fueled in part by the Ellinikon Commercial Hub, which is expected to be the country’s largest business, retail and entertainment complex.

RQ: Who is the primary customer of these real estate projects?

OA: 95% of residents who have already purchased property are Greeks (either living within the country or from the largest diaspora). The remainder of investors includes people from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Middle East, all of which are important markets for the project. Property sales have amounted to more than 600 million euros with that number expected to climb.

Greek publication Neos Kosmos cites data collected by a Dutch research firm pointing to second and third-generation Greek expats increasing their investment in local real estate. Giorgos Gavriilidis, managing director of holiday home experts Elxis, says Greek-Americans make up 17.8% of international investors and Greek-Canadians compose 20.5%.

An interesting trend with the project is that it is part of Greece’s “brain regain” as talented and executive Greeks and foreigners move back (or for the first time) to the capital and contribute to the economy. Predictions are that The Ellinikon will have a more than $14 billion economic impact on the country when it is fully operational.

Even locals have had their say in the project as it was open to public consultation during the design phase. In the early states, there was a problem with local credibility and people believing this project would come to fruition although this is no longer a concern.

These kinds of projects can transform a city. We’ve seen it happen in places like Bilbao where projects like The Guggenheim dramatically overhauled the city’s tourism prospects. The same thing happened in Singapore with the opening of Marina Bay Sands, which drew significant tourism interest (especially via social media). In 2023, tourist arrivals in Greece reached a new record at 18% over the year prior with 32.7 million travelers, and similar results are expected for 2024.

RQ: What is drawing them to such a development?

OA: First of all, The Ellinikon tapped some of the world’s leading architectural firms to deliver quality and design that matches the best cities around the world. This includes Foster+Partners, Sasaki (who created the entire master plan for the development) and Kengo Kuma.

By next year, the sports park with soccer fields, pools and tennis courts will be open to the public. And as part of the 15-minute city concept, the beach is no more than 15 minutes away from all parts of the project.

Another popular residential complex includes the Cove Residences, which will feature luxury duplexes and apartments, many of which will have private pools and rooftop gardens.

RQ: What does it mean to be a smart city?

OA: Sustainability is key to this project. There will be special software that monitors waste, energy use and water. Much of the grey water will be used to irrigate the greenery around residences. Rain gardens are used for stormwater management. Marina Tower is already LEED Gold pre-certified, and its biophiolic exterior is designed to be climate-conscious with a focus on reducing energy use.

RQ: How does the golden visa affect The Ellinikon project?

OA: Recent changes have overhauled this program, which was initially designed to bring foreign capital to the country. It used to be 250,000 euros were required in a single investment, but that has been updated to 800,000 euros. Limits on these properties keep them from being rented out for short-term use, which helps to build and sustain a neighborhood community feeling.

RQ: What happens to churches and historic buildings where the development is being built?

OA: There are nine historically protected, listed buildings that we have built around and have invested in their upkeep. This includes a church that remains open during the construction project and the three original aircraft hangars, which are now used as part of the “experience park” for visitors with nearly two dozen digital and technological exhibits.

RQ: What is in place of the former runway?

OA: Part of the runway will become a landscaped park, but other sections will have buildings constructed on them.

RQ: Why is the airport connection such a key element?

OA: For Greeks, the airport terminal represents the place where people were welcoming and also saying goodbye to loved ones that lived near and far. It has an emotional connection for many people. It was also one of the world’s most famous arrival approaches for decades (similar to Hong Kong) with planes weaving in between buildings to finally land on the capital’s runways.

RQ: What are the plans for the historic Boeing 747 parked on the grounds?

OA: We hope to turn it into a visitor center or an experience where people can see what a 747 was like from Olympic Airways and experience the original purposes of the former airport.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Ramsey Qubein

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 01.07.2024

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