The Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (HRADF), responsible for raising money from state property sales to reduce debt, is pitching the abandoned Villa de Vecchi on the Greek island of Rhodes, which had been the holiday home of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
More than half a century later, Greece is offering a 50-year lease on the property. Abandoned since the Dodecanese islands were ceded to Greece in 1947, graffiti is scrawled over the walls and fireplaces of the two-story stone and wooden structure. The villa faces the Elafos and Elaphina Hotel, built in the Alpine style, another example of the fascist dictator’s plans for Rhodes to be an outpost of an Italian empire.
Along with the villa, 13 other properties not in use are being offered as prospective small luxury hotels. Three of them are for sale only, while the remaining ten are offered for lease for 50 and 99 years.
“There’s been a significant shift in investor sentiment on real estate assets in the past 12 months, both globally and locally,” Andreas Taprantzis, executive director for real estate at the Athens-based fund, said in an interview to Bloomberg news agency. “The only criterion is the highest bid per asset.”
With 80,000 properties on its books — from a castle in Corfu and a former U.S. army base in Crete to a historic building in Washington’s Embassy Row — real estate sales of state property are expected to rake in half of the original target of 50 billion euros by end 2015 in order to repay loans Greece has received from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Projections for asset sales now stand at 22.4 billion euros through 2022. The fund has signed 4.9 billion euros in deals so far, receiving 2.9 billion euros of that amount. Real estate deals have brought in a paltry 1.8 billion euros.
Meanwhile, Taprantzis counters arguments that Greece is selling its heritage. Properties like the Villa de Vecchi have been “hidden, buried,” he noted.
“Now there’s a perfect opportunity to showcase them, not just for Greeks but to foreign visitors,” he said, adding that “No one is going to pick up the building and take it with them. The investment will contribute to the upgrade of our tourism product and will create new jobs.”