A tender launched by Greece’s privatizations office HRADF yesterday on the development of land partly belonging to the former US military based in Crete, in Gournes Heraklio, is expected to draw strong interest from large construction groups and casino operators.
It is a coastal area stretching over 345,567 square meters (sq.m.), located 16 kilometers from the city of Heraklion. In the last 20 years, the Hellenic Center for Marine Research, the Aquarium "Thalassokosmos", the International Exhibition and Conference Center of Crete, etc. have used adjacent properties.
The submission of binding offers is scheduled for July 15. Crete’s first casino will be built here, which is why joint ventures consisting of real estate investors and casino managers are eyeing the deal.
The plan that is being promoted includes the construction of two luxury hotels and about 80 holiday homes, as well as other tourist facilities, such as a hotel marina.
In August 2014, the HRADF announced the launch of the first tender on the property, which was finally canceled, while since then, the special spatial plan (ESCHADA) was reformed. In the first tender, the property was being sold in two parts, a coastal area of 78 acres and one facing the road covering 7 acres. In fact, no one was interested in the coastal property, while Ap. Vakakis' Jumbo and the real estate development company Dimand had expressed interest in the area of 7 acres.
In order to resurrect the tender, a new ESHADA was needed, which still provides commercial and conference uses for the northern part of the area. There are also trails that will allow the public to reach the sea, while the provision for a golf course that was in the original plan has been abolished. The main investment will be made on the coastal area of 78 acres, while an area of about 24 acres in the western part of the former US base is not included in the development as it was claimed by the municipality of Hersonissos.
"Utilized" since 1993
The agreement for the construction and operation of the US base in Crete was signed in the early 1950s and provided that the area, after 100 years, would pass into US ownership. The operation of the base officially began in October 1954. The 182 acres occupied by the base had been leased to the United States by many individuals, who first rented it and then received a significant price for the multi-year concession / sale. The US base was officially handed over to the Greek State in June 1994. During its peak, the base employed about 3,000 people.
From 1993 until today, various development plans have been announced without any progress, while it took about 6 years for the area to be registered as a public property, in 1999. In the meantime, parts of the area were granted to various bodies, such as the 29 acres that had been allocated to the General Staff of the Hellenic Air Force to accommodate Hellenic Air Force personnel and another 37 acres were granted to third parties.
The former State Real Estate Company (KED), which was subsequently absorbed by ETA and created the Public Real Estate Company - ETAD) had commissioned a development study in the mid-2000s. The study envisaged the development of a "Business Park and Amusement Park" in an area of around 111 acres. Eventually it was decided that HRADF will utilize 85 acres.