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Hot Practice in Greece: Helen Alexiou on AKL Law Firm's Real Estate Practice

Hot Practice in Greece: Helen Alexiou on AKL Law Firm's Real Estate Practice

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The Real Estate Practice has been pivotal for AKL Law Firm, according to Managing Partner Helen Alexiou, with tourism, as a cornerstone for the economy, fueling an influx of international investors.

CEELM: What work has been keeping your real estate practice busy in the last 12 months?

Alexiou: One of the most significant projects we've embarked on is the Ellinikon, an endeavor spanning 12 years. It's an investment of EUR 8 billion, focused on the restoration and redevelopment of the former Athens airport and its surroundings. This project stands as one of the most extensive redevelopment efforts across Europe and the Balkans, featuring around 2 million square meters of parkland – a significant enhancement for Greece, particularly Athens, which currently suffers from a deficiency in green spaces per capita.

This project also encompasses the regeneration of the coastal front, introducing high-rise buildings to Athens' skyline. To put this into perspective, Athens' tallest building at present measures approximately 100 meters. The Ellinikon project, however, has been granted licenses for six buildings, each up to 200 meters tall. It's poised to incorporate residences, hotels, Greece's largest shopping center, casinos, a marina, hospitals, and schools, essentially birthing a new city within Athens. Our law firm has had the privilege of serving as the sole external legal counsel on all licensing aspects, including planning, environmental, and building permits. Our involvement spans various facets of the project, from park usage to environmental sustainability, aiming to establish a self-sufficient, sustainable community. The project also requires setting new building standards, such as fire safety regulations tailored for high-rise constructions.

This project represents uncharted territory for Greece, making our involvement particularly fascinating. Our engagement began from the project's inception, prior to our client's acquisition of the project through a privatization procurement process between 2011 and 2016. Since securing the project, we've laid down the framework and have now progressed to the construction phase. A recent example of the challenges faced in this project was the necessity to collaborate with cement producers to facilitate a continuous pour for 40 hours to construct the high-rise buildings – an unprecedented feat in Greece. The Ellinikon undoubtedly constitutes a major portion of our workload.

Another project I'm deeply involved with is situated on a Greek island and introduces a novel approach to sustainable development and green energy. This initiative requires the establishment of new legislation, criteria, and licensing procedures, spearheaded by a visionary Greek entrepreneur aimed at pioneering new green energy solutions in Greece.

In addition to these flagship projects, we continue to handle cases related to commercial properties and golden visas.

CEELM: What's been driving that pipeline of work in general?

Alexiou: The primary catalyst behind the surge in real estate ventures within Greece is tourism, which remains a cornerstone of our economy. The demand for tourist-oriented developments continues unabated. Despite escalating prices, there's a notable influx of international investors eyeing comprehensive portfolios across various asset categories.

The commercial and high-end office sectors are witnessing robust demand, while the residential property market has seen a significant uptick in prices. Notably, there's a trend of upgrading low-end 3-star hotels into luxurious 4-star establishments, often bundled with golden visas, illustrating the evolving landscape of the tourism sector.

CEELM: What's your outlook for the next 12 months? Do you expect the pipeline of work to increase, decrease, or stay the same, and why?

Alexiou: Looking ahead, we anticipate an expansion in our real estate project portfolio. Our focus will shift toward more intricate developments, carving out a niche for our firm in this domain. The current momentum suggests that the real estate market will remain vibrant over the next five years, given the extended timelines associated with large-scale developments.

To accommodate the anticipated increase in workload, our firm is set to expand, having decided to lease an additional floor in our building. We are committed to maintaining a medium-sized firm ethos, with all six partners actively engaged in our projects. This expansion will allow us to onboard additional associates without altering the current partner structure, which is divided evenly between real estate, related litigation, and due diligence efforts in collaboration with our banking department. This department plays a crucial role, in handling the financing for tourism developments and energy projects, further contributing to our comprehensive workload.

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