Gribanovo Residents Won't Be in the Rough

OPK DevelopmentGribanovo will be on 470 hectares of farm land at the confluence of the Moscow and Istra rivers, just up the road from President Vladimir Putin's residence.
Location, location, location and golf.

Gribanovo, a "super deluxe" gated housing development along the elite Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, is promising a 104-hectare, 18-hole championship golf course created by the Arnold Palmer's design firm to lure potential buyers.

Unveiled by OPK Development at the MIPIM real estate forum in Cannes last week, the 470-hectare development is situated four kilometers from President Vladimir Putin's residence and sits on the confluence of the Istra and Moscow rivers, just 12 kilometers west of the Moscow Ring Road.

A 35-hectare park designed around ponds from the historical Sheremetyev estate will have eight kilometers of shoreline, complete with paths and beaches for scenic strolls. The houses will be designed by the firm of French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

"To sell in this market at the moment you either have to offer a good price or offer something that distinguishes the project from others," said Alexei Yazykov, a real estate analyst at Renaissance Capital.

"Now you see a lot of elite, suburban developments with water features, or designs by leading architects and designers or recreation zones or incredible location," he said.

"The one constraint is the lack of infrastructure. I'm not just talking about bad roads and traffic jams, but the lack of electricity and water," Yazykov said.

Brady Martin, a real estate analyst at Alfa Bank, estimated that the undeveloped farmland could have cost $200,000 per hectare or more. Analysts told RIA-Novosti that the development's total value could reach $1 billion.

OPK declined to give any figures.

Gribanovo is currently only in the "preparatory stages, including infrastructure" OPK spokesman Dmitry Morochenko said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The project, which has a planned completion date of 2014, will have 800 freestanding houses ranging from 350 square meters to 1,600 square meters.

Wilmotte & Associates, which is also responsible for the reconstruction of Red October chocolate factory, will design the houses along five architectural-stylistic variations. The "authenticity" of the development will be "achieved through the variation in facades and roof forms," Morochenko said.

The project's grandeur could also be its weakness, however, as high-end buyers may be turned off by the rows upon rows of mansions and the thought of being a relatively small fish in a decidedly large pond.

Vitaly Kurapov, a project manager in Knight Frank's residential department, sees the 1,600-square-meter houses as being too much of a good thing.

Opk Development
The development's planned 800 houses will come in five styles and vary in size -- from 350 to 1,600 square meters.
"This is quite huge -- it's like a castle. People who build castles tend to do it themselves, exactly to their specifications. So they risk prolonging the period that houses this size will sit on the market," he said.

Nonetheless, analysts are positive about the prospects for growth outside the MKAD -- whether it be residential, business parks or retail centers,

"Even if the population is falling across Russia, it is still growing in Moscow," said Martin, of Alfa Bank.

"Moscow is going to grow into the regions," said Yazykov. "There are two reasons for this -- there is not enough land in the center and the population is going to continue growing."

"People will be willing to live outside the city," he said.

And Gribanovo does have a number of advantages for elite developments outside the MKAD, analysts said.

"The first advantage is the proximity of the river," said Kurapov. "The developer was lucky to get land there. This means that he has good relations with the government" -- an analysis echoed by both Yazykov and Martin.

Detached houses are the best option for such developments because "people like to be separated and to have high fences. They like privacy more than anything," Kurapov said. "The location is good, the idea to build there is good, and the location allows prices to be good."

OPK's Morochenko also stressed the importance and appeal for some buyers of life beyond the city limits.

"Today, cities are environmentally unsafe because of air and noise pollution. Inhabitants live in a state of constant stress. Furthermore, in modern Russian cities, there are no economically homogenous neighborhoods, which would minimize class antagonism."

The most serious challenge, however, won't be finding buyers ready to leave the bustle of Moscow, but get getting the necessary infrastructure to serve the development and working around what's already there.

"Development projects are highly sensitive to the proposed infrastructure. You'll sink the whole project if you don't have water, for example," Martin said. "The firms that have a believable investment strategy are the ones taking over part of the infrastructure development themselves -- from schools, to hospitals to police stations."

"Basically they are one way to pay off the government," Martin said. "And, in Russia, because of uncertainty, there is an interest in trying to control the sensitive parts of projects."

The proposed golf course, for its part, is suffering from a relative abundance of infrastructure.

"There are lots of oil and gas supply pipelines running on the property. OPK is in talks right now with the government, trying to see if they can move them or build the golf course over them. This has been going on since around October," said Eric Wiltse, the golf course architect from Arnold Palmer Design who is heading up the Gribanovo projecting.

"We've been in a holding pattern, but the project is still a go."