ATHENS, March 23 (Reuters) - Greek lawmakers on Tuesday approved a contract transfering partial ownership of a sprawling former airport site to Greek developer Lamda, bringing one of the country’s biggest urban redevelopment plans another step closer to being realized.
The 1,500-acre Hellenikon airport site in the Athens riviera, where disused runways, terminals and former Olympic venues have sat abandoned for almost two decades, will eventually house shopping malls, hotels and residences under a 99-year lease with the state.
Demolition crews began tearing down the first of hundreds of blocks that need to be removed from the site, which is three times the size of Monaco, last summer after years of delays due to red tape, political resistance and local opposition.
The contract approved on Tuesday gives Lamda lease and ownership rights over part of the former airport, one of the last steps before the developer starts construction work.
“There will be a metropolitan pole of global appeal which ... will showcase Athens as a tourist destination, a business hub and a spot of recreation in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region,” Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said before the vote.
The project is expected to create 75,000 jobs and bring about 14 billion euros to state coffers over 25 years of construction, he said.
The Greek conservative government that took power in 2019 vowed to speed up the project, which is expected to help its efforts to pull the country out of a recession induced by the coronavirus pandemic following a decade-long financial crisis.
A consortium led by U.S. casino operator Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment plans to build and operate a luxury resort for 30 years on the site. That contract also needs parliament’s clearance. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)