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Greeks changing urban development attitude October 13, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.

On frequent visits to the New York area to visit relatives, Constantinos Manolakis was intrigued by the clean streets and manicured lawns of the Long Island suburbs. “When I first saw the Hamptons, I said, “I wish they would have that some day in Greece,'” he said.

Manolakis’s wish has been answered by Dryades, a new high-end residential development rising in the northern Athens suburb of Ekali. The suburban project, once unimaginable in this crowded city of four million, signals changing attitudes in land development and residential living.

Traditionally, young Greeks inherited land from their parents and built their own homes or, if they worked in Athens, they lived in apartments, as close to the city as possible.

“I go downtown every day,” said Manolakis, an art dealer and historian. “When I come home, I want to have a very quiet and peaceful time.” Though he now rents, Manolakis has made a joint bid of more than €1 million, or $1.26 million, for his home and the adjacent house in the 30-building development, where properties generally sell for about €2,500 to €3,000 a square meter. Each of the multistory homes has 300 to 450 square meters, or 3,230 to 4,845 square feet, of space and often includes a swimming pool. In addition to the size, a full range of services from landscaping to security is available to residents.

This combination of real estate and resident services has developed just in the past couple of years, said Theo Smyrniotis, an analyst at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Athens, who says extra services ensure “a higher standard of living than the Athens apartment bloc.”

Infrastructure improvements made for the 2004 Olympic Games have opened up swaths of land for residential development that formerly were considered too far for a daily commute. The areas of Pallini and Mesogia, once covered in vineyards, were transformed when the Attiki Odos highway leading to the airport was built, and they have seen a boom in residential development.

Also, a new suburban rail link to Corinth, formerly an enclave of summer homes about 40 minutes from Athens, has increased property prices there and brought the promise of more development, Smyrniotis said.

The Dryades has been attracting young couples and upper-market Greeks, many of whom are familiar with foreign-style residential communities. “People that have gone overseas and studied and worked, they’re used to this sort of residential product,” Smyrniotis said.

“So it’s not so much a leap for them.” George Kamarikos of the Athens based Danos & Associates, which is marketing the Dryades, said, “It’s a nice, secure environment for families.” But that does not mean the project is an easy sell. Kamarikos said the development was “a little different for the Greek mentality,” and added that other companies were only now starting to think about similar developments.

“Greeks like to live close together,” said Manolakis, but the art historian said he is different. His house is at the very edge of the development, with nothing but a road and trees stretching before him. “You have the feeling you are in the country,” he said.

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