An aerial view of the archaeological site in Athens where Plato established his Academy back in 387 BC reveals the outline of buildings that used to occupy the space. Then there is some greenery, followed by two apartment blocks, then there is greenery again, plus more of the archaeological site. It ends with rows and rows of more apartment buildings.
About 200 meters from the archaeological site, on Athinon Avenue, one can find the large structure housing the Athens Stock Exchange. The former Mouzakis textiles factory is located around 560 meters, or seven blocks, away.
The plot of land on which the building stands belongs to Artume, a subsidiary of investment giant BlackRock, which for years now has been planning to construct a retail and entertainment hub, to be named Academy Gardens.
The investors are probably ruing the day they made the decision. So many things have been implied about the 300-million-euro project. One residents’ committee accused the group of wanting to “steal Athens’s history and Plato’s legacy in order to turn it into a mall for their opportunist gains.”
“They want, once again, to steal our present and our future. The areas of Bournazi and Peristeri will empty out. All the small and medium-sized enterprises in Sepolia, Kolonos and Akadimia Platonos will be destroyed,” added a statement by the group.
In July 2016, SYRIZA’s youth wing vowed to oppose the project. “Young people have a duty to protect public spaces and to be in the front line of the struggle against the concretization of the area and any plans to create a mall.”
“What measures does the government intend to take to rid us of investors that appear as saviors but who deem in their reports our country to be at a high risk of default [a reference to BlackRock] and ask via letters to the prime minister to construct a mall next to the archaeological site of Plato’s Academy?” 10 SYRIZA MPs asked in a written question in 2014.
Even though there were several tax issues relating to the Luxembourg-based parent company, the lawmakers’ biggest concern was: “Will the government prevent the construction of the mall next to [note: only possible if you ignore the seven blocks between them] the archaeological site, restoring the legal order?”
Even though some things have progressed since the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government came to power (the project received the approval of the Central Archaeological Council, for instance), the process halted over the construction permit. It requires a presidential decree that has been approved by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court. This has led to the investors suspending their plans indefinitely. We hope that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has heard the news so that he does not wait in vain for the growth that he has promised to bring.
Published in ekathimerini 17.10.2017