Long before the financial crisis began nearly a decade ago in Greece there was a growing number of historic neo-classic era buildings that were derelict and in desperate need of restoration.
Now a community-led outreach from an organization called Communitism is focusing its energy on restoring the historic Metaxourgeio neighborhood of Athens which is lined with many crumbling 19th century buildings making up around 20-30 percent of the city streets.
The buildings are a reminder of a time when the city of Athens was named capital to the new independent nation of Greece and was a booming and prosperous place during the late 19th and early 20th century. However, the buildings have been left for decades on end with no care or repairs, leaving many of them to be netted off by scaffolding and metal sheets to protect passer-byes from potential falling debris.
Because they have been left to stand on their own for so long, the repairs to these historical buildings can be quite costly and the financial crisis has put the mere notion of fixing up these properties even further from the thoughts of owners.
“The process of getting restoration plans drawn up and approved can be expensive and time-consuming — a landlord could be looking at 18 months before they can even start on the restoration process. That means many landlords give up, preferring to let their building fall apart so they can demolish and rebuild something new. But Metaxourgeio is a protected cultural heritage area, so they couldn’t necessarily get permission to rebuild anyway,” Communitism founder Dida Dourida explained to citylab.com.
Communitism hopes to be able to convince landlords of these derelict buildings to be put to use as artistic and community-friendly places which would allow the organization to step in and help owners get the correct papers and funding resources needed to proceed with renovations. Their goal is to bring a sense of pride and function with meaning back to these buildings and the Metaxourgeio neighborhood has a long way to go with many restorations ahead, but is seeing success one building at a time.