Makarov's city. Speaker of St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly to lay hands on the municipal construction market?
Vyacheslav Makarov, Chairman of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, has suddenly developed a passion for historical architecture. In the last three months, he gave major developers operating in the city a hard time by hindering or even blocking some construction projects. It would seem that the dream of St. Petersburg natives comes true – a devoted historic preservation activist has finally appeared among the municipal Deputies. But is the sudden love of Makarov to the architectural heritage really altruistic?
Bring everybody to order!
Vyacheslav Makarov, Speaker of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, has recently left on vacation. Being an authorized representative of the President, he intends to participate in the election campaign. Apparently, he is going to return from vacation with renewed vigor and fresh ideas. Many St. Petersburg developers apprehend new troubles because Makarov seems to lay hands on the construction sphere seriously and for the long haul.
In January 2018, Vyacheslav Makarov has proudly reported amendments to the St. Petersburg Law On Green Spaces of Common Use. According to him, the amendments must put an end to the infill construction in the city so hated by its residents. The renewed law has come into effect immediately. A few days after its enactment, green plants were found on the construction site of future One Trinity Place residential complex. The lot allocated for the construction was put on the list of green spaces – therefore, the elite complex in the Petrogradsky district worth $500 million has a good chance to become a never-ending project.
One Trinity Place construction site. Photo: Kommersant
In fall 2017, Vyacheslav Makarov made another questionable gift to residents of the Petrogradsky district. He has lambasted Vladimir Grigoriev, Chief Architect of St. Petersburg, for the demolition of Nazimov’s Mansion built in 1898 and demanded to fire the architect immediately. The rage of the Chairman of the Legislative Assembly was in part justified: the age of the building had been artificially reduced under the pretext of its reconstruction in the Soviet period. Then the Committee for Monument Preservation has approved its demolition and subsequent development of the site by Shelest Skver company. Deputy Makarov has named this entire story involving plenty of people “a nasty thing” – but somehow made Grigoriev the only scapegoat in it. The legislator’s demand has been satisfied surprisingly quickly.
Overall, the justice has been seemingly met – although some inconvenient questions still remain. For instance, where was Vyacheslav Makarov during the artificial ‘rejuvenation’ of other structures in the Petrogradsky district built before the revolution, including Novy Lessner factory at 66 Bolshoi Sampsonievsky avenue, hostel of the Military Medical Academy at 19–21 Botkinskaya street, or residential building at 3 Remeslennaya street? And most importantly, what are true reasons behind the new historic preservation initiatives of Makarov – who was never known as a fan of the historical appearance of St. Petersburg?
In the Petrogradsky district
In fact, there is a simple explanation of the recent Deputy’s activities. Construction is the family business of Vyacheslav Makarov. In 2016, his daughter Anna Segelen has got 50% of shares in Eurostroi-M company subsidiary to Eurostroi Group. Eurostroi is one of the three largest developers in St. Petersburg. A year later, after the launch of anti-corruption inquests against her father, Anna has transferred her portfolio to father-in-law Vladimir Segelen.
It might seem that in his struggle against the infill construction, Makarov is sawing off the bough on which his in-law is sitting. Is it a family drama indeed? However, at the second look, it becomes obvious that Makarov is, in fact, protecting the family business and eliminating competitors under the disguise of historical heritage preservation. The developer building the suddenly-turned-green One Trinity Place in the Petrogradsky district is GHP Group Real Estate; this is its only project in St. Petersburg. So, Makarov decided to give the competitor some hard time – especially taking that Eurostroi implements the majority of its projects in the same Petrogradsky district. Despite the incoming of spring, Eurostroi’s construction sites do not feature any greenery. Should any shoots thrust through, Tsentralnoe (Central) Garden and Park Enterprise is ready and willing to help. A brother of Vyacheslav Makarov is in charge of that company; he would exterminate any unwanted plants in a family way.
In fact, Eurostroi feels pretty homey in the Petrogradsky district: friends and relatives of Vyacheslav Makarov occupy all the key positions there. His eldest daughter Marina Lybaneva is a Deputy Head of the Petrogradsky District Administration. His nephew is in charge of the Health Department in the Petrogradsky District Administration. Furthermore, Sergei Makarov, Chairman of the Committee for Monument Preservation, may be not just a namesake of the notorious Speaker of the Legislative Assembly – although no evidence of this is available so far. Interestingly, the last name of the predecessor of the current Chairman of the Committee for Monument Preservation was Makarov as well. Plenty of coincidences in a single municipal district.
There is nothing new on the Neva River
The close-knit Makarov family has successfully tested the above get-rich-quick scheme a few years ago. It all started with the marriage of Anna Makarova and Sergei Segelen. Their fathers were familiar since the Military Space Academy: at that time, Vyacheslav Makarov had taught scientific communism to future billionaire Vladimir Segelen. The Makarov’s lectures failed to inspire the student; later, Makarov become disillusioned with this science as well. By the time of the wedding, the in-laws already had a business plan based on collaboration between the business and authorities.
The range of commercial interests of Vladimir Segelen is pretty broad – from restaurant and hotel business to construction. Some of his companies became ‘kings of governmental orders’ in St. Petersburg. The backbone of his empire are Soyuz Invest Development and Petrostroy (by now, Anna Segelen has left it) specializing in construction. After the amalgamation of the two clans, 50% of Petrostroy shares were transferred to Vyacheslav Makarov’s daughter, and the company has undergone a surprising transformation by switching from construction to the energy sector. A lucky combination of circumstances had contributed to that – Gazprom has launched a heat supply system modernization program in St. Petersburg, while Vyacheslav Makarov became the Chairman of the Legislative Assembly.
For three years, Petrostroy had literally wallowed in governmental contracts – but than TGK-1 company subordinate to Gazprom decided to change the main contractor. Vyacheslav Makarov, being aggrieved for his daughter offended by the state corporation, has launched a counterattack. He accused Gazprom of insufficient repairs of the heat distribution network and requested to transfer it to the city. However, the acquisition of 75% of shares of St. Petersburg Heating Grid Joint Stock Company from TGK-1 has failed – and Vyacheslav Makarov addressed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asking to seize the St. Petersburg assets from Gazprom and transfer those to the city for free.
Vyacheslav Makarov, Speaker of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly
The trick didn't come off. Over time, the aggrieved father has accepted the loss, and a year later, he switched to architecture preservation. By the way, in addition to the Law On Green Spaces of Common Use, there is another similar law in the city: On Green Spaces of St. Petersburg. Vyacheslav Makarov never refers to this act because it stipulates the use of parks and public gardens for capital construction and renovation of underground subway facilities and sanitary sewer tunnel wells. O course, such a big developer as Eurostroi won’t switch to subway construction – but a solution can be found in any situation. For instance, a subway-related project may unexpectedly result in a residential complex or business center... Just a design flaw, things happen.
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