New Kid on the Block Is Called Ritz-Carlton

Capital PartnersThe Ritz-Carlton, center, set to open next year, is located at the beginning of Tverskaya Ulitsa, next door to the National and steps away from Red Square.
There is no shortage of five-star hotels in Moscow, but the opening of the city's first Ritz-Carlton, one of the world's most luxurious hotel brands, is likely to make a splash on the hospitality market when it opens its doors next spring.

The developer, Kazakhstan's Capital Partners, will build the 332-room, 11-story hotel on the site of the former Intourist Hotel, demolished in 2002.

The hotel, the first Ritz-Carlton in Eastern Europe, will have five underground floors -- three levels of parking and two floors devoted to a casino and a spa, managed by the Ritz itself. It will also have two restaurants and a roof bar in the cupola, offering views of the Kremlin and Tverskaya, said Yusuf Sarimsakci, CEO of Capital Partners.

Capital Partners Ц backed by a group of powerful Kazakh banks, including Kazkommerzbank Ц has already built two Marriott hotels in Kazakhstan. Experts estimate that investments in Capital Partners' latest project will be to the tune of $150 million.

U.S.-based Ritz-Carlton, which is 99 percent owned by the hospitality giant Marriott International, operates 59 deluxe hotels globally. It has firmly established itself as the creme de la creme of the hotel world since opening its first outlet in cosmopolitan Boston in 1927. The era's elite were drawn to the hotel, and it immediately gained an exceptional reputation, becoming known for its meticulous regard for guest privacy. Edward Wyner, the manager of that first Ritz-Carlton, ordered that the lights be kept on in vacant rooms during the Depression in order to portray an aura of success -- a controversial step during one of the most harrowing periods in U.S. history.

The developer, which plans to open the hotel in April or May 2006, acquired the rights to the site at the beginning of Tverskaya Ulitsa last May. The hotel will be located next door to the Le Meridien National Hotel and within a short walking distance from its other five-star competitors -- the Ararat Park Hyatt, the Marriott Royal Aurora and the Baltschug Kempinski.

"This is a very difficult site for construction because of its strategic central location. For example, during the 60th anniversary celebrations [of Victory Day in May] we were forced to stop any construction for 11 days," Sarimsakci said.

The hotel's facade was done by Mosproyekt, which took part in the reconstruction of the National Hotel a decade ago, while its interior, reminiscent of imperial Russia's grandeur, was designed by Peter Silling of Hotel Interior Design, who also worked on the recently completed Ritz-Carlton in Berlin.

"Our smallest room will be 42 square meters large," Sarimsakci said, adding that this was the biggest standard room of any hotel in Moscow. In comparison, due to a host of restrictions relating to the site's historical heritage, the National Hotel's smallest rooms are only 14 to 15 square meters, while the Baltschug Kempinski's and the Ararat Park Hyatt's rooms measure 35 square meters.

"It is possible that the new arrival might take some customers away from us, but 90 percent of our guests are loyal clients who stay at our hotel only because we are a historic property," said Yuri Podkopayev, the general manager at the National Hotel, adding that the market was still far from saturated. "Anyway, having a Ritz-Carlton is much better than having the eyesore that was Intourist or a construction site next to us."