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UPDATE 2-Lamda to pay first tranche for former Athens airport project next week

(Updates with Lamda’s statement)

ATHENS, June 16 (Reuters) - Lamda Development will pay a first tranche of money to the Greek state next week to secure property rights for the site of the former Athens airport, the company said on Wednesday.

The disbursement will pave the way for Lamda to kick off an 8 billion euro ($9.7 billion) investment in Greece’s biggest urban redevelopment plan after years of delays due to bureaucratic hurdles and opposition to the project.

The 1,500-acre (600-hectare) Hellenikon airport site on the Athens coast, where disused runways, terminals and former Olympic venues have sat abandoned for almost two decades, will include shopping malls, hotels and homes under a 99-year lease deal clinched in 2014.

Lamda will pay 300 million euros ($360 million) to the Greek state on June 25, a third of the total amount agreed by the two sides for the property, the company said in a statement.

“For seven years, we believed that our vision would become a reality. Today, we begin implementation,” Lamda Development CEO Odisseas Athanasiou said.

The conservative government that took power in 2019 has vowed to speed up the project, hoping it will help its efforts to pull the country out of a recession induced by the coronavirus pandemic following a decade-long financial crisis.

Last summer, demolition crews began tearing down the first of hundreds of buildings that need to be removed from the site, which is three times the size of Monaco.

Athanasiou said last month that if Lamda secured property rights in June, construction work could start as early as in the summer.

$1 = 0.8253 euros $1 = 0.8328 euros Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; ; Editing by Peter Cooney

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