From Tomazinis to Technopolis

At the dawn of the new millennium, a new city called Technopolis will begin to rise on the Thracian coast in northeastern Greece.

The city began as an idea in the head of Professor of City and Regional Planning Anthony Tomazinis. And he will head the effort to turn that idea into physical form.

Technopolis, which is intended to serve as both a research center and an engine of economic development, is being promoted by a private consortium of Greek institutions, with support from the Greek government and the European Union.

As for how Tomazinis came to work on the project, he explained, "I had made some presentations in general and published a number of things [about building new cities], so they invited me to discuss things over and make presentations" back in 1989, when the parties involved in the consortium were considering the idea of creating a new academic and research center.

"And then they concluded that they would like to proceed, and they wanted to have me lead the whole effort to implement that idea."

Tomazinis' current function is to serve as the "chief planner" of the project. Once the master plans are complete and an administrative structure is in place, he will assume a more indirect role as others work on the details.

The proposal envisions a city of 70,000 within 20 years, with enough jobs to support a regional population of 250,000.

The Technopolis project is similar to, but more ambitious than, projects such as North Carolina's Research Triangle Park. Like that project, Technopolis aims to harness the growth engines of the future: "The advanced thinkers have concluded that in the 21st century, research and education on a global scale will be the most important industry, and will take the place of the [manufacturing] industry of the 19th century," Tomazinis said.

But rather than just build an office and industrial complex, Technopolis' promoters aim to build a fully-functioning city that is also environmentally sound.

"The city will have two major characteristics. One is that it will be environmentally designed. The latest word in environmental planning will be applied," he said. "The second thing is that it will be an international city. The city will have a legislative basis that will make it a 'free zone,' permitting international firms and investors to establish operations" -- a situation he describes as unique in Greece.

Greek academics and politicians were taken by Tomazinis' ideas from the start. But it took a little persuasion and a little outside help to get them to support Technopolis in Thrace as it will be built. The Greek government's original desire was to locate the new city near Athens, and the city they wanted originally also lacked an international component. Persuasion from Tomazinis and Thracian officials, along with the interest of the European Union in the project, changed its mind.

Plans call for laying the foundation stone for the new city in January 2000. But even though Greek and EU support is assured, much remains to be done for that to happen, and more still must be done to help the city realize its founders' vision. Companies in both the Balkan region and elsewhere need to be persuaded to invest in facilities in Technopolis, and universities must be recruited to establish facilities there.

One of the universities Tomazinis hopes will play a role in the growth of Technopolis is his own. "We've talked with [Graduate School of Fine Arts Dean] Gary Hack, and I expect our faculty will be involved, and our students will be able to do studio work there," he said.

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Originally published on September 3, 1998