Greek Venture Seeks to Turn Refugee Camp Into Luxury Resort

  • Fosun-backed venture will seek to raise additional capital
  • Hellinikon resort project work expected to start next year

A venture managed by Lamda Development SA plans to raise about 500 million euros ($560 million) next year to fund construction of one of the biggest real estate projects in Europe, the Greek company’s chief executive officer Odisseas Athanassiou said.

Hellinikon, a former Athens airport site that’s used to house refugees, will be turned into a luxury coastal resort with a marina hotel, aquarium, mall and residential tower. The joint venture between Shanghai-based Fosun International Ltd., Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills, and the Latsis Group has already committed 500 million euros to develop the complex on an area twice the size of New York’s Central Park

Artist illustration of the proposed Hellinikon park development in Athens.
Artist illustration of the proposed Hellinikon park development in Athens.
Source: Global Investment Group

The Global Investment Group venture bought Hellinikon from Greece’s privatization fund in 2014 for about 915 million euros, and the country’s parliament ratified the agreement this week after creditors forced the government to reverse its long-held objections to the project. GIG plans plans to start work on the site before the summer of 2017, Athanassiou said.

“Imagine Hyde Park, on a coastline, with sunshine 300 days a year and 21st century technology,” the Lamda CEO said. There’s already interest from investors and “others will participate through financing and loans, others can contribute capital, or pitch for the construction of some of the architectural landmarks,” he said.

Before building can begin, the government still needs to tender for a casino convention resort, receive approval from the Council of State for the master plan and secure a presidential decree. The casino will provide an additional source of revenue for the cash-strapped state’s coffers, Athanassiou said.

Refugees and migrants at Hellinikon.
Refugees and migrants at Hellinikon.
Photographer: Panayiotis Tzamaros/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There are almost 2,500 refugees currently housed at the unofficial camp at Hellinikon, according to a refugee flows report on Friday. They include more than 800 based at the former airport arrivals hall and more than 900 at a hockey field used in the 2004 Olympics.

Greece, which has pledged to raise 6.2 billion euros through 2018 by selling state assets, promised to speed up divestment and open the economy to foreign capital in order to secure its third international bailout since 2010. It has repeatedly fallen behind the disposals target.

Hellinikon’s developers will seek to raise the additional funds either through a limited partnership fund or the stock market, Athanassiou said. As much as 2 billion euros is required for the first stage of development at the coastline of Hellinikon, which will be completed within five years and include about 250 high-end homes.

Lamda, also a member of the Latsis Group, will manage the project, which will employ about 10,000 workers during the first stage of its construction. Shares in Lamda, about 17 percent of which are owned by Blackstone Group LP, fell as much as 2.6 percent in Athens and were trading at 4.64 euros at 5:10 p.m. They’ve risen about 15 percent this year.

“The fact that the sale enjoyed across-the-aisle support in the Greek parliament is very positive,” Athanassiou said. The project at Hellinikon, where the airport closed in 2001, will add 70,000 jobs to the crisis-stricken country when it’s completed, he said.

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