Revitalizing the Kypseli Neighborhood in Athens

? Destination Stewardship Report – Vol. 3 No. 2 – Fall 2022 ?

Another winner from the Top 100 – Every year, Green Destinations organizes the Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition, which invites submissions from around the world – a vetted collection of stories spotlighting local and regional destinations that are making progress toward sustainable management of tourism and its impacts. From the winners announced this year, we’ve selected two more stories, this time from Zambia and Greece, that showcase different reasons for engaging the local community. Synopsis by Josie Burd.

Top 100 submission by Alexia Panagiotopoulou, Head of Strategy, Athens Development and Destination Management Agency

Revitalizing the Kypseli Neighborhood Began with a Holistic Redo of Its Core Agora 

Amidst the densely packed historic neighborhood of Kypseli stands a building that has gone through lifetimes of change. The Kypseli Agora is one of the last permanent neighborhood markets in Athens, a traditional gathering place for the community. Fondly recalled memories of after-school ice cream visits and weekend shopping for fresh foods with their parents roll off the tongues of elderly residents as they reminisce about how the market felt more like a second home than a place of business.

A group passes through a local park during a walk around the neighborhood. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

This lively atmosphere began to disappear in the 1980s as younger people moved to the suburbs instead of into the homes they would have inherited in Kypseli. The majority of the residents who stayed were elderly. As the neighborhood declined, so too did traffic to the market. The Kypseli residents, the City of Athens, and the public recognized this loss for what it was and considered how they might bring the vibrancy and life back to this community.

These are some of the steps they took to achieve that goal:

  • 200 people engaged in public forums discussing ideas and proposals for the market. Citizens submitted an additional 470 proposals.
  • Private companies, associations, social enterprises, and civil society groups submitted 17 total proposals in an Open Call to select the manager of the market.
  • The City of Athens coordinated 3 months of cooperative activities to promote the Open Call and begin encouraging a collaborative culture for the market.
  • The Kypseli Agora worked with surrounding businesses to provide a place for them to show their work while building relationships together.
  • Lower-rent spaces in the market went to startups and popup shops with a focus in social business that encourage questions about consumption and stimulate the circular economy. The goal was to emphasize inclusivity and create opportunities for vulnerable groups to be recognized for their work.
  • The new market determined that it was important to build regularity and thus developed a schedule. Some events include an organic garden vegetable market on Wednesdays and a brunch showcasing food from neighborhood kitchens once a month on Sundays.

Results

Kypseli Agora achieved a new life in 2018. With social entrepreneurship and sustainable values at its heart, the market became a thriving hotspot for culture and community. Since its revival, quality of life in this neighborhood has increased, drawing an influx of residents, especially writers and artists. The revitalization of the market has also been credited with helping the City of Athens to become the European Capital of Innovation in 2018.

Pop up brunch, Kypseli Municipal Market, part of the Athens City Festival. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

After two years of shutdowns and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the market hosted an all-day lounge and party in May 2022 to help relaunch the neighborhood. The appeal of the Kypseli neighborhood now extends beyond the immediate community and is known throughout Greece and beyond, often featured in international press as a cultural destination. Indeed, Green Destinations and the Future of Tourism Coalition chose Athens and the Kypseli Agora to host their annual conference, held September 26-29 of this year.

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