The Athens municipality has launched an innovative program aimed at turning around the rundown area of Plateia Theatrou, located around the corner from town hall in the city centre.
Previously one of the trendiest spots in town, the district took a sharp turn downwards about ten years ago when bars and restuarants in the area started shutting down one after the other, citing the ghetto-like conditions that were scaring off patrons. But that bad run appears to be over, thanks to Athens' tourism boom that is helping to prompt improvements to down and out neighbourhoods.
The munipality is pouring one million euros into this program that it hopes will regenerate not only Plateia Theatrou, which means Theater Square in Greek, but also the whole neighborhood and draw back businesses and residents.
Any improvements to inner city neighborhoods are being closely watched by investors who have been snappping up downtown properties where demand is high for short term rentals on platfoms such as Airbnb.
At Plateia Theatrou, the council ran a tender offering to pay the rent and operational expenses of seven creative businesses for the next six months, if they chose to set up shop in the area and move into one of the many retail spaces that have been boarded up for years. More businesses will be able to qualify for the benefits in the future.
A five person committee has been appointed the task of choosing who qualifies for the assistance based on their plans to create outdoor areas, multi purpose workshops and create, design and sell art products. These stores were formally opened at a ceremony held at the square on Friday.
"Today is important symbolically. Apart from the seven stores, we are essentially reopening the square to the people," said Athens mayor Giorgos Kaminis.