Zaryadye – one Moscow park at the cost of four cities 

 Zaryadye – one Moscow park at the cost of four cities
Zaryadye Park opened to the public in the historical center of Moscow Photo: The CrimeRussia

Zaryadye Park opened recently in the center of Moscow has replaced a demolished hotel and became a new tourism landmark of the Russian capital. It has also caused the destruction of historical architecture, enormous expenses, and acts of vandalism among its visitors.

On September 9, 2017, on the 870th anniversary of Moscow, a unique splendid Zaryadye Park has opened to the public in the historical center of Moscow.

13 ha of land between Vasiliyevsky spusk, Varvarka street, and Kitaigorodsky drive are occupied by four landscape zones of Russia: tundra, steppe, forest, and meadows. To ensure maximal realism, each zone has its own microclimate artificially created through temperature regulation, wind, and daylight imitation.

All this ‘nature’ in the center of the city is located on a slope descending from Varvarka street to the Moscow River. A ‘flying’ bridge – loop above the river – has been built in that place. A media center with panoramic cinemas and underground museum with remains of white-stone Kitai-gorod walls are located near the entrance next to the Kremlin.

However, as it often happens, the builders failed to complete the project 100% and just whipped it into shape prior to the visit of Vladimir Putin. Therefore, the following attractions are still under construction: an ice cave (labyrinth decorated with stalactites and stalagmites) with subfreezing temperature, glass cork protecting heat-loving plants, philharmonia with two halls (400 and 1,500 seats), large amphitheater, and restaurant.

Not everything was completed by the time of commissioning Not everything was completed by the time of commissioning Недоделки в парке «Зарядье»
Not everything was completed by the time of commissioning  
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Zaryadye — “Russia” — “Zaryadye”

Zaryadye, a historical Moscow neighborhood located between Kitaigorodsky drive, Varvarka street, and Moskvoretskaya quay, had featured residential buildings until their demolition in the 1930s. The land was cleared for the People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry – but after the death of People's Commissar Ordzhonikidze, the project has been cancelled. After World War II, it was decided to erect the highest Moscow skyscraper there – the foundation was completed but the death of Stalin has put an end to that project. Finally, in 1967, architect Dmitry Chechulin (author of the high-rise building) has erected there Russia Hotel, the largest in Europe. 

For the last 10 years, this area located near the Kremlin walls was enclosed by a huge fence. By the 2000s, Russia Hotel went out of style and required reconstruction; its demolition started in 2006. At that time, it was intended to build a modern hotel on that place. Famous British architect Norman Foster, author of Mary Axe skyscraper nicknamed ‘Gherkin’ in London, was supposed to design the new hotel. ST Development belonging to businessman Shalva Chigirinsky was about to become the main investor of the project – it has invested $800 million into the construction of a complex of buildings with the total space of almost 500 thousand square meters (a five-star hotel with 2,000 suites, movie and concert hall, parking lot, etc.). However, the tender won by ST Development has been challenged by Monab company that had lost it, and following a fierce litigation, the city has terminated the investment contract with ST Development.

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Zaryadye Park occupies the place of demolished Russia Hotel

There was another development option for the most lucrative and, perhaps, most expensive piece of land in the center of Moscow: construction of a parliamentary center to accommodate both the State Duma and Council of the Federation. Vladimir Putin has put an end to the arguments: after visiting the vacant lot in January 2012, he suggested to lay out a park there.

Chigirinsky had required the municipal authorities to reimburse 5 billion rubles ($86 million) spent by ST Development on the demolition of Russia Hotel. Then the company has been transferred on account of debt repayment to Viktor Rashnikov, a partner of Chigirinsky and primary shareholder of Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works.

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Shalva Chigirinsky had required the municipal authorities to reimburse funds spent on the demolition

In 2013, the municipal authorities have transferred Renaissance Moscow Olympic Hotel located near Mira avenue to Rashnikov as a compensation. In exchange, all the leasehold rights on the land lot in Zaryadye and the remaining substructure of Russia Hotel have been assigned to GAO Moskva belonging 100% to the Mayor’s Office. 

In April 2013, an international contest of park design concepts has been announced. Over 450 companies had submitted their proposals. A project developed by the consortium of New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro design studio, New York-based Hargreaves Associates landscaping studio, and Moscow-based Citymakers city development company has been chosen the winner.

Mosinzhproekt company belonging to the Moscow Government has been selected to implement the project. Up until 2010, it was a state unitary enterprise, but then it has been transformed into an open joint stock company. In the past, Mosinzhproekt had developed documentation for the reconstruction of Manezhnaya square and tunnels under Gagrarina square and Kutuzovsky avenue. Then Mosinzhproekt has won a tender to manage the design and construction of subway lines and stations. 

It was noted that in the framework of the Zaryadye Park project, Mosinzhproekt would be responsible for several sub-projects: construction of Zaryadye Park, integration of the new park with the philharmonia, and improvement of the adjacent area, including transformation of Varvarka street into a pedestrian zone.

Video: Time lapse: construction of Zaryadye Park 


How much is it? 

The initial cost of the project funded 100% from the municipal budget for the period of 2014–2016 was slightly over 5 billion rubles ($86 million). However, by November 2014, the cost estimate has increased to 12.8 billion rubles ($220.2 million). The authorities had explained the price hike by the need to demolish existing buildings and lay service lines. 

In September 2015, Kommersant newspaper wrote, citing the press service of Civil Engineering Management Budgetary Enterprise, that according to the Targeted Investment Program for 2014–2017, 13.3 billion rubles ($228.8 million) have been allocated for Zaryadye Park construction, including almost 6 billion rubles ($103.2 million) for the park itself, 5.4 billion rubles ($92.9 million) for the philharmonia construction, and 575 million rubles ($9.9 million) for the improvement of Moskvoretskaya quay.

However, the Targeted Investment Program for 2016–2019 provides different figures: 545.7 million rubles ($9.4 million) have been allocated for the demolition of Russia Hotel and concert hall of the same name, 7.4 billion rubles ($127.3 million) – for the construction of facilities in the park zone of Zaryadye, including an underground parking lot for 430 cars and administrative and amenity premises, and slightly over 4 billion rubles ($68.9 million) – for the “Zaryadye Park Zone” Natural Park Complex itself. The total cost is 12.159 billion rubles ($209.2 million). 

The expense budget is of interest as well. For instance, Mosinzhproekt has purchased equipment for the concert hall for the total of 3.1 billion rubles ($53.3 million), while the total cost of equipment for the media center, including Polet (Flight) Media Complex with a parabolic screen and mobile platform for 39 people was 1.5 billion rubles ($25.8 million). 

The park has spent 4.37 million rubles ($75.2 thousand) on its logo and brand style. The logo contest has been carried out through Ag.mos.ru (Active Citizen) online portal and won by artist Maria Kokukhina whose reward was 370 thousand rubles ($6.4 thousand). However, the brand style for 4 million rubles ($68.8 thousand) has been developed by Art. Lebedev Studio – a frequent winner of governmental tenders, while Red Square studio controlled by Arkady Rotenberg was retained to create content for information booths in the park and movies for the cinema and received 47 million rubles ($808.6 thousand) for its work.

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A studio controlled by Arkady Rotenberg made 47 million rubles ($808.6 thousand) on the park

The “new symbol of Russia” had implemented the import substitution policy in an original way. Not only was the park designed by foreigners (and built by guests from the former Soviet Union), but even the birches, spruces, pines, and plants listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation were purchased in Germany – as well as shrubs, ephemeral and perennial grasses, and soil with worms.

According to the governmental acquisitions web site, Zaryadye Park State Autonomous Cultural Institution of Moscow specially established for the park maintenance has spent 43.4 million rubles ($746.7 thousand) on “cleaning of non-residential premises” – while the Moscow Department of Capital Renovations has allocated 2.7 billion rubles ($46.5 million) for the improvement of streets, including those adjacent to Zaryadye Park.

At the park opening ceremony, Marat Khusnullin, Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning Policy and Construction, said that the total cost of Zaryadye Park was 14 billion rubles ($240.8 million). According to Khusnullin, the Moscow authorities “have opted not to attract investors for this project on purpose. Investors would ask for commercial space, thus, altering the main idea of the park”. Sources of Vedomosti newspaper had noted that, taking into account the correction of all deficiencies and completion of the construction, the final cost of the park would be at least 25 billion rubles ($430.1 million).

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Final cost of the park would be at least 25 billion rubles ($430.1 million)

To compare: the annual budget of Vladimir, an average Russian city with the population of 356 thousand people, is 3.3 billion rubles ($56.8 million)

An extra hotel 

In the meantime, another park facility near Varvarka street – a five-star hotel – is under construction without fanfare. The excitement over the creation of an unusual space in the city center have deafened the outrage and protests of architectural heritage advocates – according to the plan, the new hotel is to be erected instead of the former revenue house of merchant in the First Guild Zelik Persits built in 1909 by architect N.I. Zherikhov and former building of Yakor (Anchor) Insurance Corporation built in 1989 by A.V. Ivanov.

On November 4, 2016, the partial demolition of historical buildings 1 and 2 at 14 Varvarka street dated the beginning of the 20th century has begun in the protected zone of the Moscow Kremlin and buffer zone of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The demolished buildings have the status of historically valuable city-forming objects whose preservation is stipulated in the Governmental Decree of the Russian Federation On Approval of the Charter of Protected Zones of Cultural Heritage Objects (Historical and Cultural Monuments) of Nations of the Russian Federation of September 12, 2015.

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Buildings 1 and 2 at 14 Varvarka street before the partial demolition

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After the partial demolition

According to ArchNadzor (Architectural Watch), this project is a blatant violation of international commitments of the Russian Federation and the Presidential Instruction to Ensure Compliance with the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

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Demolition of the southern building at 1–14 Varvarka street

Initially the hotel construction was handled by businessman Dmitry Shumkov. A winner of the supreme Russian legal award “Lawyer of the Year–2012”, Shumkov was among the ten best lawyers in the country. In the 1990s, he had worked in the Prosecution Office and founded his own law firm upon resignation from the governmental service. Shumkov had provided legal support for international deals of the Russian Government.

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Businessman Dmitry Shumkov

In 2014, Neftegazprod Closed Joint Stock Company controlled by Shumkov has purchased 64% of shares in Olimpiisky (Olympic) Sports Complex from the Moscow Government for 4.67 billion rubles ($80.3 million). Later Shumkov has increased his portfolio to 91.5% of shares. In the same year, Turbo Limited Liability Company controlled by Shumkov has purchased the former revenue house of Zelik Persits on Varvarka street from the Moscow Government. It was planned to transform the building with the total living space of 21 thousand square meters into a five-star hotel with 320 suits at the cost of some 17 billion rubles ($292.3 million).

To implement this project, Buildings 1 and 2–14 Varvarka Street Multifunctional Complex (MFK) Limited Liability Company and Zaryadye Multifunctional Complex Limited Liability Company had been established; shares in these companies belonged to the son of Shumkov, his wife, and other relatives. 

However, a series of weird incidents occurred soon in relation to that project. In April 2015, Andrei Arkhangelsky, Head of the Construction Department of Mosinzhproekt Joint Stock Company and friend of Shumkov, was arrested. According to the investigation, he had received a bribe in the amount of 5 million rubles ($86 thousand) from a subcontractor involved into the construction of Kotel’niki subway station. It was reported that Arkhangelsky had supervised many key projects and his arrest has affected the relations between the municipal authorities and some investors, including Shumkov.

In December 2015, Shumkov was found hanged in his apartment in the Federation Towers of the Moscow International Business Center.

MFK Limited Liability Company has been acquired by structures controlled by well-known Moscow developers God Nisanov and Zarakh Iliev – owners of Evropeiisky (European) Trade Center, Ukraina (Ukraine) Hotel, Grand Furniture Center, and Moskva Automotive Hypermarket and builders of Moskvarium at the All-Russia Exhibition Center. The company has been reinforced by making Artem Dyumin, a brother of the Governor of the Tula Region, its shareholder. 45-year-old Aleksei Dyumin, a former bodyguard of Vladimir Putin, has made an amazing career: in 2012, he became a Deputy Head of the Security Service of the Russian President of the Federal Protection Service of the Russian Federation; in 2014 – Deputy Head of the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate and Commander of Special Operation Forces of Russia that had played a key rule during the reintegration of Crimea; since 2015, Dyumin was the Chief of General Staff of the Ground Forces; in the end of 2015, he became a Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation; and since early 2016 – Governor of the Tula Region.

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Artem Dyumin, brother of the Governor of the Tula Region

Another representative role in the company has been assigned to Bülbül Teimur Polad oğlu, a son of the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia and once-famous singer, – he became the General Director of MFK Limited Liability Company.

From grateful visitors 

After the opening of the park – that was supposed to be free, open 24/7, and year-round – large-scale remedial works have suddenly became needed, and it was decided to change the hours of its operation. In the period of September 11–13, ten thousand plants were damaged, while the ‘glass cork’ and dome of Media Center exhibition pavilion – broken. According to Igor Safiullin, Head of the Department of the Gardening and Park Service of Zaryadye Park, 30% of the vegetation have been destroyed, including marsh marigold listed in the Red Data Book. The plants were either trampled down, or dug out and removed, or just rooted away and thrown.

So, the question is: did the Moscow residents and guests really need such a park for that money or not?

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