With the demolition of the historical GOCMV headquarters, President Bill Papastergiadis expresses mixed feelings, but above all enthusiasm for a new beacon of Hellenism globally
Four years ago – when the funding for the Greek community and Lonsdale Street precinct was announced by Premier John Brumby in front of tens of thousands of Greeks gathered at the Antipodes Festival – The Hellenic Tower may have seemed like a project that was decades away. However, this week, now that demolition of the building has taken place; it is evident the Hellenic Tower dream is not so far away. This new Hellenic symbol in the centre of diverse Melbourne is a project that looks forward 50 years, that will, as President Bill Papastergiadis tells Neos Kosmos, secure the future of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria (GOCMV).
The demolition of the old headquarters of the GOCMV will make way for a brand new 15-floor Hellenic Tower, which will incorporate a centre for Greek culture, heritage and language. With the building contract having been executed, and the finance agreements reached with the bank, the demolition of the building commenced last week. “We have started, and we expect in four weeks the building to be demolished, and construction of the building commencing forthwith,” Mr Papastergiadis tells Neos Kosmos. The demolition of the cultural nest for the Greeks of Melbourne and Victoria brings, no doubt, mixed feelings. “That building certainly played a pivotal role in our community, from a number of perspectives. Whether it was new migrants coming to Australia in the 50’s and 60’s, and the community being their first port of destination, to all of the events that we’ve run there, on the third level.
But, at the same time, we are also filled with optimism and enthusiasm, because what we are replacing it with is something which will firstly- from a side of appearance – have Hellenic symbolism. We’ll have an outwardly visible Hellenic symbol in the centre of the city, in terms of how the building has been designed,” Mr Papastergiadis says. “And then, there are the facilities that we are going to be offering. We will be unmatched in the global diaspora – there will be nothing like this centre outside of Greece. And, more importantly, it is going to provide us with important income strengths. So there are a lot of positives, which determined this being the appropriate way for us to go forward.” It is expected that by early 2014, a new building will be completed and ready for use. “And Melbourne is going to be the beacon for all Greeks globally,” Mr Papastergiadis says.