Billed as the largest regeneration project in all of Europe, The Ellinikon is set to become a new modern landmark in the Greek capital. On a recent visit, prestige we got a first-hand look at a lot of what the developers behind this massive “smart city” project have planned.
(Hero Image: An architectural rendering of Ellinikon’s futuristic ‘Commercial Hub’)
Athens is many things to many people. For some it is the cradle of Western civilization. For others, it is the birthplace of the modern Olympics. For others, it’s the first stop we make when traveling to glamorous Greek islands like Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu. Whatever the case, it’s easy to see why this ancient Mediterranean city remains such a popular tourist destination.
Adding to its list of attractions is The Ellinikon, a massive “smart city” construction project that is expected to see phase 1 of its development completed by 2026. The land – all 6.2 million square meters – is located right in the middle. of the ‘Athenian Riviera’, a picturesque stretch of coastline that begins at the Port of Piraeus, Europe’s largest passenger port, and ends at Astir Vouliagmenis, home to fabulous resort-style hotels such as the new Four Seasons Palace Astir.
And while it’s a little too early to notice what in some areas is just a vast construction site at the moment, the size and scope of Ellinikon is nothing short of incredible. When complete, it will be a true ‘city within a city’, home to hotels, shopping arcades, 9,000 residential units (many of which are freehold), schools, health centres, office space, state-of-the-art sports facilities generation. , and a two million square foot outdoor space known as Ellinikon Park. Linking it all will be an extensive trail network, exceeding 50 km, with footpaths, cycle paths and light traffic roads. In short, it will be an urban utopia with a sunset view.
The land itself was once home to Hellinikon Athens International Airport, which opened in 1938, was expanded in 1969 and later in 1995, and finally closed for good in 2001 – although it briefly resumed operations during the 2004 Olympics. As a newer airport was built further inland, the disused oceanfront airport remained idle until the land was finally put up for auction in 2013 (due to the financial crisis and other factors , privatizations were becoming more and more common in Greece at the time).
In 2014, Lamda Development, a holding company based in Greece specializing in the development, investment and management of real estate, won the tender with a successful bid, although it was not until 2021 that all the red tape and Phase One of the €8 billion project were resolved finally started in earnest. At a press conference for international media, Odisseas Athanasiou, CEO at Lamda Development, explained that one of the major factors supporting The Ellinikon is tourism.
Based on projected estimates, he noted that Ellinikon is expected to bring between one million and 1.5 million more tourists to Athens than before. This “build it and they will come” strategy is consistent with cities becoming stronger tourist destinations after creating landmark developments. Singapore is a good example, with Marina Bay Sands, and Bilbao with the Guggenheim Museum is another.
Other outstanding aspects of The Ellinikon include the estimated 85,000 new jobs it will create upon completion and the architectural breakthroughs it promises, such as the erection of the first real buildings in Greece. Before Ellinikon was granted special permission, the maximum height for new buildings was limited to about 16 to 24 meters, depending on location and other parameters. Five high-rise buildings are planned at Ellinikon, the luxurious Riviera Tower will rise 200 meters above sea level.
Designed by British architecture firm Foster + Partners, Riviera Tower will feature a collection of one- to five-bedroom residences, plus several penthouse units, offering residents spectacular views as well as easy access to the beach and 400 upgraded rooms. berth harbor (capable of receiving superyachts). Also nearby will be Europe’s first casino complex, a stylish new hotel and branded residences, as well as the Riviera Galleria shopping and lifestyle gallery, which will be designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.
However, this is only part of The Ellinikon’s full 3.5 km seaward front. At the other end—beyond the redeveloped, mile-long public beach in the middle—will stand a cluster of custom-designed beachfront homes known as Cove Villas, more than 100 apartments and duplexes that make up Cove Residences, and another hotel by the sea. and branded residences. And all this oceanfront development is, in turn, only a fraction of The Ellinikon’s vast total acreage.
The full project stretches inland from the coast for about 2.5km to Vouliagmenis Avenue, which is close to where the very futuristic-looking Commercial Hub building, designed by Hong Kong-based architecture firm Aedas (the house, moreover, at what will become the biggest mall in Greece). And while there are many, many other aspects worth mentioning, the heart and soul of The Ellinikon is undoubtedly Ellinikon Park, which is at the heart of the entire project. This biodiverse park – the first part of which should be completed by the end of 2025 – is almost twice the size of London’s Hyde Park and provides a much-needed injection of green space to Athens as a whole.
The park is also key to The Ellinikon’s focus on sustainability. Aiming to drastically reduce the overall reliance on cars, virtually everything you need is within a 15-minute walk (or bike) of the middle of the park, with footpaths, cycle paths and an extensive line of tram connecting residences, shopping. , offices, theater, subway, sea and dozens of other lifestyle necessities. If you choose to live here, you may not have much reason to leave.
Sustainability, working hand in hand with new technologies, is what qualifies The Ellinikon as a “smart city”. And because everything is designed and built from the ground up – not retrofitted – it can implement these innovations from the ground up, easily incorporating any recently introduced smart city technology. Recycling and reuse are also of paramount importance and as such the builders will reuse 100% of the material excavated during the airport demolition – an example being the park benches created from cement.
During an afternoon tour, we were shown how far construction had gone and how much of the old airport had been demolished. However, one structure that will be spared the wrecking ball is the old airport’s famous East Terminal, designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, a pioneer of the neo-futuristic style of the 1960s. Since 1969, this building has been considered a significant landmark and will now be repurposed as, most likely, a restaurant and entertainment venue.
To get a bird’s-eye view of the entire enterprise, we were also taken to the Ellinikon Experience Center, housed in a converted aircraft hangar. Opened to the public earlier this year, it reveals, through video presentations, scale models and interactive displays, both the scope of the project and some of the technological innovations used – such as ingenious solar-powered phone chargers built into the armrests of the needles cement banks mentioned above.
Widespread 5G, public Wi-Fi and ultra-high-speed fiber-optic internet connectivity will create a powerful digital network in The Ellinikon, while a bespoke IoT (Internet of Things) platform will provide access to powerful applications for visitors and residents. alike. In addition, an advanced electrical grid will prioritize the use of integrated renewable energy, smart lighting technologies will ensure the most efficient use of electric light (with minimal light pollution), and intelligent water management and an optimized irrigation system will maintain energy consumption. water at a high level. minimum. There are even plans for water drones to clean the coastal bluff.
The team at Lamda certainly spared no expense in bringing their vision to life. All buildings are LEED certified, while the park is SITES certified. Accessibility is also addressed and this involves looking after citizens with mobility issues and other disabilities; which is why special features have already been incorporated into the master plan, such as ramps, path sizes, etc.
So can anyone, even those outside the EU, buy this city of the future?
Odisseas assures me that it is open to everyone and that buying a house in Greece is unrestricted. In fact, he says there are provisions that if someone makes an investment of a fixed amount of money – 250,000 euros and more – they can have a residence in the country for five years. And with a much more business-friendly government now in power, even more provisions have been made in the past two years promoting foreign ownership of assets and residence in Greece.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the idea of settling in this green oasis by the sea has generated a lot of investment interest. According to Odisseas, all the residential developments that have been put on the market – which include coastal high-rise units, some villas and some apartments – are already sold.
For more information, visit The Ellinikon.