Construction of Russia Tower Halted

APThe Moskva-City development will find its centerpiece in the Russia Tower, slated to be Europe's tallest building.
Construction of the Russia Tower, a 600-meter-tall steel-and-glass symbol of new Russian wealth and power designed by Norman Foster to be Europe's tallest building, has been halted for lack of funding, its developer said Friday.

"Say thanks to Alan Greenspan and George Bush," oil and real estate magnate Shalva Chigirinsky said.

The end of the era of cheap global credit orchestrated by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has hit the country's developers hard, and many have frozen all but a few key projects.

Chigirinsky's comments appeared to take Foster's London-based firm by surprise.

"The project isn't on hold as far as we are concerned," a spokeswoman said in an e-mailed comment.

Russia's answer to London's Canary Wharf or La Defense in Paris, the Russia Tower was to crown Moskva-City, a skyscraper development that rises from an old industrial site surrounded by a highway, a railway and the Moscow River, surrounded by cargo yards and Soviet-era apartment blocks.

Chigirinsky enlisted Foster, architect of the London Swiss Re building popularly known as the Gherkin, as he was garnering a huge following in the former Soviet Union.

Foster + Partners' web site describes it as the tallest naturally ventilated tower in the world, with 118 occupied floors, and one of the greenest new buildings in Europe. It calls the project an "investigation into the nature of the tall building" like Foster's Tokyo Millennium Tower.

The first stone was laid in 2007, and the tower was due for completion in 2012.

It now shares the fate of U2 Tower, planned for Dublin's Docklands as Ireland's tallest building by a consortium of Foster and the Irish rock band. Negotiations on U2 Tower were suspended for 12 months because of financial market uncertainty.

The glitzy new Russian commercial district was to give rise to a new international financial center, a dream of President Dmitry Medvedev's administration.

Earlier this month, one of the anchors of the project, VTB, announced that it would put off its move into the Federation Tower, the second-largest building in the development, to keep costs down.

Mirax, developer of the Federation Tower, which like the Russia Tower is a multiuse building with offices and apartments, said last month that resilient demand for high-end real estate would soak up its $5 million apartments with interiors by Giorgio Armani.

Chigirinsky, born in Georgia and ranked last spring by Forbes among the country's richest people with a fortune of $1.6 billion, said he could not predict the future of real estate and the resilience of wealthy Russians' spending power.

"Even if we had funds [to complete the building], we still wouldn't know what to do with it," he said.

Foster has designed two more Chigirinsky projects: the Zaryadye cultural, residential and business center to replace the Hotel Rossiya and New Holland Island, a stadium complex on an artificial island in St. Petersburg's Neva River delta.

Chigirinsky did not give the status of those projects.