The Onassis Foundation came with a proposal to alternate and rethink of the centre of Athens through organizing and funding a European Architectural Competition. The project named RETHINK ATHENS is centered around Panepistimiou Street with the goals to:
- Make the city centre a destination for people instead of a traffic area for automobiles
- Functionally, aesthetically and environmentally upgrade the city centre
- Reinforce the commercial, administrative and financial activities of the city
- Re-inhabit the city centre
- Highlight the historical and cultural profile of the capital
- Offer quality of life to all citizens
In the official presentation a couple days ago it was mentioned that it will be funded with European funds designed for the support of European cities and their incorporation into networks and cultural galaxies. Hopefully it will be completed by 2015 reaching the cost of 200 million euros.
The Foundation is already collaborating with the Greek Ministries of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, and of Transport, Infrastructure and Networks, together with other organizations that will contribute and coordinate the project.
The public, citizens and entrepreneurs of Athens are able to discuss and express their opinions through the social media (Facebook, twitter), something happened for the first time.
Referring to the project, the Prime Minister Lucas Papademos described the restoration of Athens as “an urgent need and a top priority”. At the same time, the Greek government heralded a police sweep of the city centre with the aim of arresting undocumented immigrants, reduce illegal trade and stop the open use of drugs.
But is this really possible? If you have walked on a Friday evening downtown Athens, you should have seen closed stores and empty streets even before 19:00 o’ clock… In the area around Omonoia Square you enter a different city, darker than ever. And it is becoming queerer since some meters away people continue shopping or enjoying their coffee preferring not to approach. Not to even THINK about it.
Some citizens say that this is another pre-electoral promise made only to fade away after the forthcoming elections on May. Others can’t understand why should Europeans interfere. Can’t Greeks themselves find a sustainable plan? And do they need AGAIN help from abroad?
It is true. We must not expect all solutions to our problems from the government or Europeans. The Region of Attica, the Attica Hotel Association the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies, The Hellenic Retail Business Association, Theatre Unions and businesses breathing the real life of the centre run a campaign that will last till the 6th of April in the hope of attracting more people downtown. Visiting www.athensfridays.gr one can see offers and discounts from listed shops, theatres, bookstores, cafés etc.
Maybe it is time to THINK IN COMMON not just THink…