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Green-shoots of GRecovery in Athens city center

by Kosmas Theodorides

As of one of the few remaining active Real Estate Brokers in central Athens, I often get the attention of the press, local and international. For the past few years the foreign interest has invariably focused on the near collapse of our sector in the Greek capital. It has been difficult to promote the other side of the coin, namely that among the ruins of the past order the green shoots of the future are already springing.

Two years ago, I wrote an article on Sundays "To Vima" under the title "Lets revive Athens". I was outlining a strategy of redesigning commercial uses in downtown Athens and letting the market work. The article was written in the darkest hours of our city as the crisis that started in the December 2008 riots was escalating to a State near- default. It took time, commitment and effort but we are finally getting there.

It is often difficult to describe to an international audience how hard it has been. First,  to change the minds of local bureaucrats who we have selectively been stopping the opening of restaurants and coffee shops, the main type of investment available for some time. Hard lobbying and the reality of unemployment explosion convinced even some sclerotic local politicians. But then, lobbying politicians is a piece of cake compared to convincing a Greek owner to lower the price of their property to meet the new reality. Needless to say, those who were convinced saw their properties coming back to commercial life.

We have completed dozens and dozens of transactions in commercial and professional spaces during the Greek Great Depression, amidst demonstrations, riots and even burning buildings. Why? Because entrepreneurs will always look for an opportunity for business creation and profit. And there is no substitute for location. The market is healing its wounds when not hindered by bureaucracy and red tape. At long last, foreign reporters visiting our city and enjoying the new shops begin to write of GRecovery rather than GRexit.

Is this the end of our troubles in Real Estate? Perhaps not just yet, but I am hopeful that the Athens city center has entered a bottom forming process. Prices have corrected   and our data suggest that for top locations at least there is stabilization for rents per square meter. With the new prices, it makes sense to open a new shop even in todays still shrinking economy. Imagine the upside when the market turns.

It would be hubris to say that we are out of the woods in a city where around every corner there seem to be homeless and marginalized people. There is a lot of work to be done. But in areas like Kolonaki, around the Acropolis and Hermou Str we have proved that we can start again as the greatest peacetime depression is running its course.

You can already see the greenshoots; not before long we will also see the fruits.

(Kosmas Theodorides PhD, is heading Polis Realty that has now seven branches around metropolitan Athens)
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