The need for the State to cooperate with the investment and business world for the redevelopment and promotion of unused land and buildings in Athens and other cities, as well, was another issue raised during the OT Forum, on Tuesday.

Mr Stefanos Vlastos, CEO of the Hellenic Public Properties Company (HPPC), acknowledged that there are “many difficulties” arising from the large number of stakeholders, from municipalities and regions to ministries, MPs and citizens.

As an example, he cited the case of a municipality that refused to leave Hellinikon, unless it received in return an area worth 2m euros to convert it into a construction site.

“We have to put an end to the devaluation by proceeding with speed, flexibility and efficiency,” stressed Mr. Vlastos. A key role in this direction is played by the digitization of the State that is just now being implemented, he pointed out.

HPPC is now investing in the Parnassos ski resort, in Vouliagmeni beach and in several museums. It is also running a competition for the area of Gournes, in Heraklion, where the State earns 40 euros per month, while the neighboring area brought 40m euros to private investors.

Furthermore, the tender process for Kaiafas Lake in Peloponnese is progressing, but, as Mr Vlastos acknowledged, it has a special environmental character. “We don’t want another big hotel in Kaiafas […] It will be a flagship project with environmental sensitivities that will be integrated into the tender offer with feasibility and sustainability studiesHPPC” he said.

He also mentioned that the planning for the compound in Faliro and the development of the so-called Athenian Riviera on the coastal front are currently in progress.

Mr Aristotle Karytinos, CEO of Prodea, also referred to the challenges the large projects usually face.

He described as a “traumatic experience” the previous sponsorship of his company for the renovation of Strefi hill in Exarchia, at the request of the Municipality of Athens. Prodea spent one million euros on earthworks and other projects to keep the hill safe. However, many citizens objected to the project protesting outside the company’s offices.

“We see obstacles that don’t exist,” said Mr Karytinos.

Renovations are much more difficult when carried out by private entities without the participation of the State, he pointed out, speaking of a thin market and the absence of institutional investors.

However, he acknowledged that, in the past, the private sector committed some mistakes, as well, as investors wanted to undertake both the construction and the commercial exploitation. “The mistake was that they wanted to keep the whole vertical chain,” he said.

Concerning the so-called pocket parks, the CEO of Prodea estimated that such sites can only be created by demolishing large public buildings, since the expropriations are very difficult and face appeals to the Council of State in 9 out of 10 cases.

“The renovations in Greece began to take on significance with the Olympic Games in 2004. Opportunities and spaces were created to upgrade the neighborhoods,” said Mr Dimitris Andriopoulos, president of Dimand. “But the opportunity was not used sufficiently. Projects such as the unification of archaeological sites were delayed or never implemented,” he stressed.

However, the redevelopment project in the Tower of Piraeus, which remained untapped for decades, proceeds unhindered. With the extension of the blue metro line and the redevelopment of Mikrolimano, Pasalimani and Theatre Square, a single 3.5 km route is created for the citizens of the downgraded area. “The municipality now has the obligation to communicate with the residents,” said Mr Andriopoulos.

He also referred to the area in Agios Dionysios (formerly Papastratos), which had no use in 2015.

“We have funded the studies of the municipality and the region, so that they can draw on European funds. The tender documents were issued in six months instead of six years,” he pointed out.

The biggest project in the next five years, he said, could be the development of an area of 157 hectares in the complex of Pyrkal, in the area of Hymettus, located in the municipality of Daphne. The land could accommodate up to nine ministries to free up space in the centre of Athens. The work would simultaneously highlight the historic buildings in the area of Pyrkal, which date from 1862 to 1970s.

For the development of such land, he stressed, cooperation with the private sector is required, regardless of government, municipalities and region.

Finally, the speakers agreed that the center of Athens should not be occupied by the tourism industry. As Mr Andriopoulos said, “we need to create buildings, incentives and stimuli to return the residences to the center.