Hill is providing project management services for the redevelopment of the Astir Palace resort in Athens, Greece. Astir is widely regarded as the "crown jewel" resort of the Athenian coastline. The site is one of the most attractive parcels of land along the Eastern Mediterranean coast.
France, the UK and Greece are all preferred destinations for tourists globally, and for Europeans in particular, for completely different reasons. While the first two nations (France and the UK) are favourites for their history, diversity of culture and fashion, the biggest attraction for Greece is undoubtedly the Mediterranean Sea. Spread over nearly 2.5 million sq kms (965,000 sq miles), the Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea – through the Suez Canal. It has Europe in the north and North Africa on the south and has seen several civilizations flourish along its shores in the past several centuries. Greece is at the center of that history and growth and is now emerging as a destination of choice for investors that plan mega redevelopment of existing assets.
Astir is a unique natural peninsula, providing an exceptional island feel in the heart of the elite area of the Athenian Riviera, Vouliagmeni, commented Manolis Sigalas, director of development with Hill International’s Project Management Group in Athens. Last March, Hill was awarded a contract by Jermyn Real Estate Fund IV (also known as “Jermyn Street”) to provide project management and related advisory services for Astor re-development.
The Astir development is spread over about 300,000 sq meters and the asset comprises two owned and currently operating five-star hotels, one non-operating hotel, 58 owned bungalows, as well as leases to the prominent Vouliagmeni luxury yacht marina and the nearby Astir beach.
“Jermyn Street’s vision is to redevelop Astir into an ultra-high-end Mediterranean hospitality facility,” Sigalas said. Currently, a master plan for redeveloping the Astir Palace Resort has already been completed, while the client is also in the process of launching a competition for a re-design of the existing hotels and also appoint a luxury-brand operator for the facilities, Sigalas said. Onsite construction work is due to start later this year and is likely to take 12 to 18 months to complete. With a team of 18 to 20 staffers planned to be deployed for the project, Hill will bring to the table high-calibre local presence and expertise.
The project is targeted to be completed by 2017 and will also include redeveloping the high-end villas, restoration work, enhancing of land scape and reprogramming of the pool area, Sigalas said.
The next step
“Jeremy Street is an investor in the planned facility and is still not the owner,” Sigalas said, adding: “They are the preferred bidder for the sale, which is due to close soon.” The Jermyn Real Estate Fund IV, is being advised by London-based AGC Equity Partners Limited, and is backed by a sovereign wealth fund from the Middle East and a major Turkish business group. The cost of acquiring the existing asset is Euro 400 million (US$474 million), with the client planning to spend in excess of Euro 150 million (US$178 million) on redevelopment, Sigalas said. There is little doubt about funding the re-development, but the sale process will also need an approval from the government in Greece, he said.
“The next few milestones to be crossed will be closure of the deal, to be followed by approval by the government of the masterplan and the environmental impact study,” Sigalas said, adding in 2015 Hill will be busy in providing design development management and procurement work for the main construction contract. With international tourism setting a new record by the end of 2014 with more than 1.1 billion international tourists travelling the world in one single year, according to a latest report by the World Tourism Organization, and that figure set to rise in the future, the demand for hotels and hospitality will increase over the coming few years.
“Greece is attractive for tourism, real estate and infrastructure development. Astir will be a project of global reference and can set a precedent for investments to come into Greece over the coming few years,” Sigalas said.