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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Design, on the Funny Side of the Street

Driving along Moscow's crumbling Ulitsa Sretenka, it is hard to believe that in four years the old facades will be transformed into a paradise of slick offices, winter gardens, underground parking lots and luxury apartments.

This is what has been planned for the historic street, which is being torn down section by section for an ambitious project to turn Sretenka and the area around it into a modern, state-of-the-art community.

Standing between Sretenka and the 21st century, however, are a few problems all too familiar to any Moscow developer: Residents do not want to move out of their tumbledown dwellings, no one can say where the money for the project will come from and two separate bureaucracies are running the show.

"Listen to architects, and it all sounds like a dream," said Alexander Faizulin, a city official involved in the project. "But we will be lucky if we get the first step off the ground in three years."

He said that the plans to finish everything by Moscow's 850th anniversary in 1997 are unrealistic.

Faizulin, who has worked in the field for over 20 years, said that the first stage of the project, which includes a theater and several other buildings, is likely to cost some $250 million.

"Besides," he said, "time limits cannot be predicted because each investor might suddenly run out of money and freeze his section of work for God knows how long."

According to Mikhail Vogman, deputy chief architect of the Mosproyekt-2 city architecture bureau, the project to transform the 18th-century street is financed by a multitude of private and state investors, most of them represented by an organization called Gendirektsiya Tsentr.

Vogman declined to name any of the investors.The size of the ambitions behind the project is not the only complicating factor. The street's very position on the Moscow municipal map has created a major headache.

Sretenka connects Sretensky Bulvar and Sukharevskaya Ploshchad (formerly Kolkhoznaya) on the Garden Ring. Although the street is not terribly long, it is divided -- lengthwise -- between two city districts: The Krasnoselskoye district administers the east side of the street, while the west side lies in the Meshchanskoye district.

As a result, the redesign project is being handled by two teams of architects -- one for each district -- working on floors two and nine of Mosproyekt-2.

The Krasnoselskoye district's team has already completed design work on one section of the street, to be called "Sretenskoye Podvorye," or the Sretensky Yard, said Mikhail Kazarnovsky of Mosproyekt-2. He said that a run-down block of empty shells and communal apartments will be converted into a complex of upscale offices and apartments with green terraces, complete with underground passages, winter gardens, a shopping mall and a fitness center.

Of the original buildings, Kazarnovsky said, only the outer shells will be preserved, with the interiors being entirely rebuilt.

For current residents, this means an obligatory move -- but many do not want to go.

"I have a crowd of people waiting outside my room," Faizulin, who works for the Meshchanskoye district, said in a telephone interview.

As there are no set rules, the conditions of move have to be discussed with each tenant personally, he said. And while more than 25 percent of the residents concerned do not mind moving to suburban neighborhoods, many are refusing to leave the center, especially those who have privatized their flats, he said.

"Our main goal is to preserve Sretenka as a dwelling neighborhood," said Boris Tkhor, an architect in charge of redesigning the west side of Ulitsa Sretenka.

Tkhor said that all local residents who refused to move would be given apartments in the reconstructed buildings or new apartment blocks. If an entire building is privatized, flat owners can become investors and restore their own homes, he said.

For the moment, some residents are still in the dark about the plans and others would rather not know.

"I have not been notified of the situation formally," said a woman who lives in the area.

The woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that most apartments in the area are old communal flats, half empty or occupied by veteran Muscovites.

"These babushkas do not care about leaky pipes or cracked ceilings," she said. "They would die rather than leave the homes they've spent their lives in."