IPM Director, Prof Ares Kalandides has been appointed member of the scientific committee of ANAPLASIS S.A., the public company responsible for the urban renewal in the historical centre of Athens, Greece.

New developments in the city of Athens call for a new strategic planning, an umbrella concept that will identify the urban, architectural and architectural qualities of the historical centre as a core within the wider metropolitan area. ANAPLASIS S.A. was created to tackle the design and implementation of this broader concept that will set the parameters necessary to remodel the city, within a 25-year horizon.

The process of urban renewal in Athens, which started more than 30 years ago, was violently interrupted by the financial crisis. Large social groups – the homeless, the poor, immigrants – have been marginalized, a large-scale housing crisis has erupted, large or small businesses have closed down, thousands of shops and offices in the city centre and on shopping streets were abandoned, while buildings and infrastructures were left to rot. This was and is the spatial imprint of the economic collapse; public space reflected this downturn.

The historical centre of Athens, the heart of the wider metropolitan area, has thus declined in a very short time. Spatial investments of almost half a century disappeared, planned projects and plans were abandoned, city infrastructure was dismantled and a large part of the building stock deserted.

It is only recently that we have seen a certain reversal of this trend. For the first time in many years, we can spot new constructions and renovations. Shops are reappearing, and abandoned buildings are re-filled with new life. A major Integrated Spatial Investment programme has been designed by the Municipality and the Region and is currently being implemented. There is a successful scheme for utilizing vacant public real estate of with social return that will revive seventy buildings in the city centre.

There is also a certain recovery of land values. The beginning of the new Metro line will complete the central Athens network linking it to many districts and major destinations of the northern and eastern Attika basin. Finally, the strong tourist flow that peaked in 2018 has led to the revival of the relevant market and the revival of hotel units. These are all positive development

However, severe poverty-related phenomena and visible deterioration still exist, such as the continuing housing shortage and high unemployment as well as the crisis of small and middle-sized commerce. Public space will need a lot of care to return to a decent level. The abandoned building stock is still huge, with listed neoclassical buildings in a particularly bad state. Housing has almost been displaced from the centre of Athens.

Tourism and mass recreation have developed in an almost aggressive way, expanding related land uses (cafés, bars, airbnb) at the expense of less profitable ones (housing, crafts, traditional and small commerce). Also, cars after a decade or relative scarcity, have now returned back to the streets of Athens, resulting in traffic congestion and uncontrolled occupation of public space, degrading the city's quality, making the movement of pedestrians dificult – in particular for children, the elderly and people with reduced mobility.

Public space of Athens does not only need redevelopment, it literally needs reconstruction: ruined pedestrian streets and sidewalks, parks and hills, small squares, asphalt and crossings, flower beds and green along the roads, lighting – the whole urban landscape.
The historical heritage of the two centuries of modern Athens is complex and compact. We will find it in the so-called historical triangle, north of the Acropolis: with its antiquities, and then layers of the neoclassical, refugee, and modernist Athens. This is also the centre we need to care for, starting from the simple, small issues of the everyday, all the way up to the large ambitious projects.