A plan for a 6.8 billion Euros ($9.3 billion) integrated resort invested by Chinese conglomerate Fosun along with partners from Greece and Abu Dhabi has now received approval from the Greek government.
The investment by Fosun, which was first reported during March, was formally announced during a three day visit to the cash-strapped southern European nation by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The Chinese investment firm, together with Greek partner Lamda Development and real estate developer Al Maabar from Abu Dhabi won approval from the Greek government after agreeing to pay 915 million Euros ($1.25 billion) for a 99-year lease of the former site of Athens’ Hellenikon airport.
Besides the cash paid for the 620-hectare (1,520 acre) site, the consortium submitted a plan for 5.9 billion Euros ($8.05 billion) in development that includes luxury residences, two hotels, a casino, a shopping mall, an exhibition centre and concert facilities. The site already includes a 337-berth marina and has 3.5 kilometres of waterfront.
An AFP report on the project announcement ceremony cited Russell Kett, the chairman of London-based tourism analysis firm HVS as promoting the uniqueness of the new project. “We envisage a major integrated resort, the first of its kind in Europe,” Kett said. In recent years integrated resorts, which combine gaming facilities with hotels and other amenities have proved successful in attracting Chinese tourists to Macau and Singapore.
In China, Fosun has already partnered with Kerzner International Holdings, the developer of the ultra-high end Atlantis resort in Dubai to build a “7-star” leisure facility on Hainan island, and has been said to have plans for additional cooperative projects with the resort developer and manager.
Consortium to Seek $1 Billion Loan
According to a statement from Lamda Development, about $1 billion of the capital from the project will come from bank loans, while the remainder is to be provided by the three partners.
Lamda estimates that the project will take 15 to 20 years to complete once construction begins in 2016 following final vetting of the project by a number of Greek government offices.
Fosun Helping Greece Pay Off Bail Out
The sale of the Hellenikon site, which had stopped serving as an airport in 2001 and was last used in 2004 to house portions of the Athens Olympics, was necessary for Greece to meet the terms of agreements with the European Union and the IMF as part of the bail out that the country received during the financial crisis.
Besides helping to payoff the bailout obligations, the developers estimate that the resort will attract a million tourists to the area annually, which could help Greece in its ongoing struggles to rebuild its economy.
However, despite the large amount of investment that Fosun and its partners plan to bring to the area, not all local residents were enthusiastic about the project. During a ceremony organised by Lamda to announce the project, protesters held up banners stating “Hellenikon is not for sale.”