A multi-million-euro plan which aims to revive the Tower of Piraeus, the tallest building in Greece’s greatest port city of Piraeus, was revealed recently.
The history of this iconic building goes hand in hand with the political history of Greece in the second half of the 20th century. It also epitomizes the country’s lack of developmental direction, since this gigantic edifice has remained mostly empty and unused for more than 45 years.
It was in 1968 when the military junta then in power in Greece enacted the so-called ”Development Law on the Heights of Buildings and Free Construction.”
This was the first time that buildings higher than the hill of the Acropolis were allowed to be constructed in the basin of Attica, which fundamentally changed the skyline of Athens.
For many, this bill was the final blow in Athens’ anarchic urban transformation from a beautiful, traditional city of the early 1900s to an ugly assemblage of concrete blocks, following the rapid development of the post-WWII era.
However, for the colonels of the Greek military regime, tall, modern buildings and impressive skyscrapers would be the perfect camouflage to hide the realities of their cruel dictatorship and their unworkable economic policies.
Between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, a series of tall buildings and skyscrapers were constructed in the Greek capital. The highest of them all was the Tower of Athens, a 103-meter (338-foot) high building, which is exceptionally tall by Athens standards.
As the Greek capital had never really had grandiose buildings, the Tower of Athens never really managed to fit into the city’s landscape. Nonetheless, for the construction-maniacs of the Greek junta and its business affiliates, this was the time to cash in and make some easy profits.
”So what about Piraeus?” many of the leaders of the time asked. And they were right. The military regime would not leave Piraeus without its own giant buildings to serve as emblems of their power.
An edifice identical to the Tower of Athens building would mentally connect Athens and Piraeus, two cities which have walked hand-in-hand together through the millennia.
The years after the junta
The main structure of the building in Piraeus was ready by the end of the military rule in Greece in 1974. It took nine more years until the Tower obtained its glass facade in 1983, making it look almost identical to the Tower of Athens.
However, the tallest building in Piraeus never managed to grasp the role which it was designed for. It not only failed to become the center of trade in the city — it didn’t even manage to house a single office on its premises.
Sitting mostly empty from the very first day of the completion of its construction, the tower only accommodated retail businesses on its ground floor up to the second floor. No floor higher than this has ever been occupied in the entire building.
Several different bids from the municipality of Piraeus to sell or lease the building to investors failed, for a variety of reasons.
Due to the fact that the Tower lacks enough parking space, as well as rumors and urban myths about its alleged static electricity problems, the building has sat empty for the most part for decades.
However, after nearly four and a half decades, the history of this sleeping giant is about to change.
A private company called Dimand Real Estate, along with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Prodea Investments, has presented a comprehensive plan worth more than fifty million euros to bring the Piraeus building back to life.
Their joint proposal to the municipality of Piraeus is to turn the tower into a multi-use building that will house retail shops, offices, and hotels.
In just a few days, the municipality of Greece’s greatest port city will launch the official bidding process to grant leases in the Tower for the term of 99 years. If these entities are granted leases in the building for the next century, the necessary works are expected to commence immediately.
Finally, at long last, the giant of Piraeus will become a vivid center of commercial life, as it was originally intended to be.
At least, that’s what the people of Piraeus, who have had to look at a mostly-empty building for decades, and remember the empty promises of a bygone era, are pinning their hopes on.