Sunday, 19 June 2011

Treasure trove of Soviet architecture in line for a revamp

The faded Soviet glory of VKNKh is to change as developers want to make it a jewel in the crown of the Moscow tourist trail.

No longer the quirky blast from the past with fountains and rockets as its highlights, nor even a convenient stretch of tarmac for roller bladers, the scheme would revamp the pavilions dedicated to the former Soviet republics and make it a spectacle to rival Red Square.

But with ambitious funding plans, the scheme has attracted skeptics and doubts hover over the feasibility of the facelift.

Plugging a hole

“We are basing it on the fact that Moscow has not a single relaxation zone for citizens, which can offer the whole possible range of quality services for leisure,” Alexander Machevsky, spokesman for chairman of the board of directors First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, told Vedomosti.

One of the main tasks of the developers is striking a balance between the scale of the plans and doing it for a reasonable price.

The plans

The exhibition centre, now officially called VVTs but still widely known by its old title VDNKh, is set to be divided into four zones, the Path of Nations, the Campus of Innovation, the Center of the Quality of Life and the Zone of Relaxation. The Path of Nations is set to revive the pavilions of the nations of the USSR and broaden the net with new pavilions for subjects of the Russian federation, the EU and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

This involves rebuilding 55,684 square meters, build a further 27,000 square meters and investing $333 million.

A gymnastics centre, an equestrian centre, an aquarium and flower exhibition are slated to grace the Centre of the Quality of Life, and to cost $580 million. The Zone of Relaxation is to cost another $766 million.

Balancing the books

Developers “have carried out market research and financial analysis shows that the project will pay off,” the planning documents say, Vedomosti cited. If loans will be needed to build it, as well as budget money, then the projected annual income of $300 million will go a long way to paying it off.

Rental from hotels, office space and retail areas will be ways of achieving this, the developers say.

But Yana Kuzina, CB Richard Ellis’ consulting and evaluations department thinks differently. The estimated income from rents is over optimistic by 100 per cent, she says. While, for example, developers say they can charge $1500 per square meter Kuzina thinks $700 – 800 is a more realistic sum.

And there are also likely to be protests from heritage campaigners, who have already highlighted threats to the unique Soviet architecture of the park.

Members of Arkhnadzor included VVTs in its anthology of valuable Moscow buildings facing destruction published in 2009.

Still at the drawing board

It could still get off the ground though, “The park [project], of course, has not yet been bought and paid for. The VVTs can still only call it conditional. It is to be a gigantic shopping, entertainment and exhibition complex, of which the only example in Moscow so far is Crocus Expo. With proper planning and implementation it could be competitive, Konstantin Kovalyev, partner at Blackwood, told Vedomosti.

VVTs’ press service says that the plan has still got to be approved by the board of directors and that the parameters could still change. A City Hall source says it is currently being looked at in different departments.

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