Plan for a Greater Moscow Gains Stronger Residential Flavor

Developers: urban grid for travel, work and life will bring order to ad hoc sprawl.

New Moscow is likely to become a land of retail parks, residential development and light industry, with the apparent abandonment of plans to move federal staff to new working and living quarters.

The Russian government has not publicly decided against moving its staff outside the center of Moscow but President Vladimir Putin has voiced doubts and Russian newspapers quoted unnamed sources as saying the plan is dead.

It was supposed to have reduced motor traffic in Moscow, both commuting and traveling between ministries. But industry experts said it could have had the opposite effect. Country manager for the developer and real-estate investor Hines, Lee Timmins, said: "There is a growing view that picking up government or asking business to move out of the center is not a good idea. We think it could worsen the traffic and it is far more rational — which appears to be the way the city is going — to develop public transportation as well as highways, and the proper servicing of districts to avoid the kind of hectic development that has happened in many cities around Moscow."

Companies migrate

Hines is building an outlet village and retail park of 85,000 square meters near Vnukovo, benefiting from the already-built airport express rail line. (See Inside View).

Analysts say the kind of workers moving to the perimeter or outskirts of the city would not typically include government or the client-facing staff of financial services. Some banks have, however, moved their administrative offices beyond Moscow's third transport ring. Rising rents and the introduction of paid-for parking are likely to encourage more companies to migrate from the center. Claudia Chistova, Head of Office Research for CBRE in Moscow says they will come mainly from industries such as IT, telecoms, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, mass media and the auto sector. (For more, see Parking)

Developers eyeing New Moscow still face uncertainties. Even though authorities have until 31 December 2014 to approve an updated general plan officials are still allowed to take decisions to rezone or allocate land for development.

The authorities can impose special conditions on the purchase or rental of land, such as building or upgrading utilities and transport infrastructure on behalf of the municipality. In addition, the State Duma is considering a draft law that would set deadlines for settling disputes on financial and contractual obligations, similar to the laws used to expedite construction in Sochi and Vladivostok. Official land valuations have risen sharply, by 50 to 100 percent on average. (For more, see Legal Note)

Work-life balance

As for central Moscow, the plans concern a park on the site of the former Rossiya hotel, between the Kremlin and the river with an underground concert hall.  This leaves the rest of downtown Moscow, where sparkling new business centers jostle with crumbling Soviet apartment blocks, uneven roads and sidewalks of varying narrowness.  There is often a dangerous variation in levels combined with poor drainage of groundwater.

The Chief Architect concedes that this presents a bigger challenge than developing the areas within the newly expanded city limits. But this is not his responsibility; rather that of the housing and communal infrastructure department of the Moscow administration Sergei Kuznetsov says he wants to create districts that balance life and work more easily. So far the city has cleared advertising hoardings and semi-legal kiosks from sidewalks. It also has plans underway to pedestrianize more sections of the city, following the example of the upmarket shops and restaurants of Kuznetsky Most.