Omonia can become the Soho of Athens


Leon Avigad, founder and co-owner of the Brown hotel chain, and Minos Digenis, founder of Minos Digenis Arquitectos, the architectural office that designs MINION, spoke to New Money on how Omonia has inspired them.

Avigad remembers that when he decided to venture into Omonia, everyone stopped him. The area was considered "non grata". Do you know if the question was obvious? How could a place just 10 minutes from the glittering Syntagma be so different – ​​for the worse? After the first hotel in Omonia followed the announcement of the new MINION and the Mama Shelter hotels with the super cool design of Philippe Starck. "Such projects will turn Omonia into the Soho of Athens in 4-5 years," claims the experienced hotelier.

And it goes on. "Organising parties every weekend, on the roof of Brown Lighthouse, for example, with the Nepenthe events team at the Pullman club with high-end dinner, attract people from Vouliagmeni and Kolonaki in Omonia. Also, promoting the Christmas market in the area, we encouraged many families to come with their children to the fountain."



Omonia can become the Soho of Athens.

The problem of drug addicts

We all know the problem of Omonia. They are the local drug addicts. Leon Avigad says: "The drug problem in Omonia cannot be solved by itself. We have spoken many times with the mayor, the minister of tourism, and the relevant body of the police service. It will take years to resolve this once and for all, and that is why the police have rightly argued that they are not looking for the users but for the traffickers".

On the other hand, the last thing they would want is to "refine" the area.

"We are not looking to turn Omonia into Kolonaki. Omonia has its charm and reality. And they shouldn't change it. I remember Omonia as a child when it was still circular. It was a place for fun. Not snobbish and prestigious. The whole area up to Technopolis and Keramikos is an area of ​​fun and coolness. And that's how it should be. For this, changes are needed from the base, not huge investment funds with pharaonic projects with a ten-year horizon".

Leon Avigad, founder and co-owner of the Brown hotel chain

The next Meatpacking District



“Actually, he opened a hipster barbershop. A tattoo parlour. A second-hand clothing boutique. An advertising agency is preparing to occupy a building already. The changes coming to Omonia will be super cool. Also, the real estate market is still not expensive; one can find neoclassical or modernist buildings from the 70s. Unity needs a community base of creative people. Bureaucracy exists everywhere we have invested: Germany, Cyprus, Croatia, everywhere," added Leon.

The above words reminded me of what he had said at the Architect show conference in his interview with the content manager of Design Ambassador Danai Makris: "Athens can become better but not the same as Barcelona. It will achieve this by respecting small family taverns and local products. Greece can potentially attract more tourists than Spain and France without hurting local businesses. Instead, the tavern and the Michelin star restaurant coexistence makes Athens more charming. New areas for us could be Gazi and Metz".

And he continued: "The fact that we now have 12-13 hotels around the square is something that bathes it in the fantastic Christmas light. Also, the streets that lead to Exarchia and the National Theatre, with Brown Kubic, and the same happens with Kotzia square, opposite the town hall. We have estimated that these hotels host two thousand people every day. Imagine these people looking for local experiences walking out the door of their hotel to a nice tavern or restaurant or a cool bar. Accor hotels are also coming to the area, Moxy and Mama Shelter have arrived, and with MINION coming soon, Omonia will become the next Soho or Meatpacking district, the place where everyone will want to go out".



The architect of MINION

We spoke with Minoas Digenis, who designed the new MINION: "All we want is more quality interventions and more trust in the architectural community. MINION aims to function as a hub for the wider area's regeneration.

"Mixed uses (the combination of office spaces, shops and residences) can become an example for the rest of the building fabric of the centre. However, only over time can we finally evaluate the impact of MINION.

"The idea was exactly this: Not to be a project that sees its navel. Its conception has the character of becoming a driving force for the surrounding area and its upgrading. Only if we preserve and highlight the existing buildings will the image of the area change."

READ MORE: Forbes on Ellinikon: Greece Will Soon Be Home To Europe’s Largest Coastal Park.


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