A plan to upgrade the National Archaeological Museum in central Athens is seen as providing a major boost to the 150-year-old display of ancient Greek artifacts but also a big lift to real estate in the district where prices have rallied up to 99% higher in recent years.
The construction and upgrading of museums and cultural facilities is a tactic adopted by governments around the world to unlock value in local economies, as was the case in Athens, both with the New Acropolis Museum (opened 2009) and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) opened in 2016.
This uplift spurred by the introduction of cultural and historic facilities to a neighborhood is what is known as the "Bilbao effect", a term named after the former industrial city of Bilbao, Spain. There, in 1997, the city became an international destination for art and luxury real estate with the arrival of the Guggenheim museum.
In Athens, the planned upgrade of the archaeological museum, Greece’s largest, is expected to create a shift in the use of property in the surrounding area, which includes Exarchia, Vathis Square, Victoria Square and Kypseli.
8G Capital Partners managing director, Tasos Kotzanastasis, says that "a successful museum attracts tourism and this in turn raises the need for related businesses, such as hotels and restaurants".
"However, if the museum spaces are combined with public spaces or space for events (eg concerts) then they can attract a more balanced mix of locals and foreigners," Kotzanastasis tells Business Daily.
“We can expect an increase in real estate values, commercial and residential, as well as possible conversion of old offices into hotels (even though the supply in Athens has increased sharply), as well as housing in short-term leases. In general, museum upgrades are a positive development for the local economy. The challenge is to spread the value created to the largest part of the local community as possible," he adds.
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Stephen Sheppard, an economics professor at Williams College in Massachusetts, believes that house prices near new museums can increase between 20% and 50% over a five year period.
The New Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum of Athens has been around for 150 years. Earlier this month, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni announced that plans are moving ahead to provide a major upgrade of its facilities that have been criticized by many as being dated and in dire need of improvement.
Mendoni said that the ministry’s International Evaluation Committee has completed the process of selecting the architectural proposal based on which the New Archaeological Museum will be created. The committee unanimously chose the pitch put together by architects David Chipperfield and Alexandrou N. Tombazi SA.
According to ministry officials, the selected plan brings together elements of the old and new building, the quality of spatial experience, sensitivity to museological and museographical challenges, while taking into account sustainability and environmental planning issues.
“We want an outward looking museum in continual dialogue with the community, with a dynamic view of the future,” said Mendoni.
But the plans for the new museum do not stop there. The revamp also includes an underground extension being built linking the museum with a new neighboring cultural center, established in 2020, called Acropole Across,
Dizzying price hikes
Housing prices in central Athens have already been performing strongly. A recovery in the economy from the country’s economic crisis, along with a tourism boom that is fuelling demand for short term accommodation, have pushed prices higher. In fact, price gains have outpaced wage increases, prompting the government to help young couples get a place of their own.
In the neighborhood surrounding the archaeological museum, data from indomio.gr for 2017 - 2022 show that property prices have moved ahead at a dizzying speed, though there has been a small price correction in recent months.
In Vathis square, the average selling price for an apartment has shot up by 99% (to 1,401 euros per sq.m), while in Exarchia the hike for the same period of time reaches 78% (average price of 1,994 euros per sq.m.). However, in Kypseli price gains were more moderate at 30% (average selling price now at 1,491 euros per sq.m.).
How did the other museums affect prices?
The performance of housing prices in the areas where the New Acropolis Museum and the SNFCC are located is also of interest.
In both cases, residential assets in these two districts outperformed the broader Athens market where prices advanced by 22% between 2017-20122. Housing prices near the New Acropolis Museum and the SNFCC, however, jumped by 48% and 51% respectively.
Investment opportunity from new museum?
Another part of Athens for investors to keep an eye out is Akadimia Platonos, located in Athens’ inner west.
Here, the site of Plato’s Academy, a new underground museum is being planned that will cover 13,500 square meters, accommodating ancient artifacts that have been in storage for decades.
Just days after announcing the architectural proposal chosen for the New Archaeological Museum, Greek authorities said they have chosen the plans for these new facilities.
Above ground, the park area will be maintained in a part of Athens which has few green spaces.
Akadimias Platonos is one of the least developed parts of central Athens, With no access by the Athens Metro subway, the area has remained largely unchanged at a time where most inner neighborhoods have been transformed by the country’s tourism industry.
Data shows that housing prices between 2017-2022 have underperformed the broader market, remaining just about stable over the six period.