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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Return to Elegance Planned for Store

Just when it seemed the city could not hold another crane or construction worker, a Western development company has announced plans to incorporate one of central Moscow's most noted historical landmarks into a gleaming retail-office complex.

Yeliseyevsky Gastronom, a turn-of-the-century grocery store on Tverskaya Ulitsa once known as Moscow's most prestigious epicerie will form the focus point of what will eventually become the Yeliseyevsky Shopping Center.

The center will consist of a nine-story ensemble complete with roof-top restaurant and two floors of underground parking, According to Sergei Barkovsky, general representative in Russia for Dayrun Developments Ltd., a foreign development firm which will own the center.

"We want to make it into a showcase," said Barkovsky, a Canadian citizen and descendant of Moscow industrialists who emigrated to France and Belgium during the 1917 revolution.

Showcase would seem an understatement. Along with a and is expected to pay for itself in six years, Barkovsky said.

Project investors, however, prefer to wait until after the June presidential elections to complete financing, he added.

To build the center, Dayrun has acquired the 49-year lease to the Yeliseyevsky Gastronom and has signed a "framework agreement" with the city about the purchase of three other buildings that make up the block of Tverskaya Ulitsa and Kozitsky Pereulok.

City officials could not be reached for comment after several days of attempts.

At the center's heart will be Yeliseyevsky, whose massive chandeliers, mirrored walls and ornate gilded ceilings mean Dayrun will have to walk a delicate line in creating its urban shopping plaza.

"You could say without any doubt that 99 percent of Russians know the Yeliseyevsky name," said Barkovsky, the president of the Cocorico boulangerie, a gourmet French bakery in Moscow.

Known in tsarist times for its select foodstuffs -- sausages carved in the shape of the Kremlin, for example -- under Soviet rule, the gastronom was known as the one place where shoppers could always find some sort of sausage or vodka, wrote the food industry magazine Vitrina in a recent article.

But while the store will "modernize" its sales equipment, restoration will not mean a 20th century self-service supermarket, stressed Vladimir Trifonov, general director of Yeliseyevsky Gastronom.

"We will leave it the way it is. Of course, there will be modern computer equipment for the cash registers, but we will make sure that it fits into the original [architectural] style so that people won't be shocked," Trifonov said.

As municipal property, the store, known in Soviet times as Gastronom No. 1, had an agreement with the city to renovate its facilities and turned to Dayrun to help with the restoration work, he said.

Barkovsky added, however, that Dayrun would like to get rid of the gastronom's "totally senseless" three-point Soviet sales system where shoppers choose a product in one spot, pay for it in another and then return to pick it up. The development firm, made up of a group of unspecified Western individual investors and companies, is negotiating with the store about acquiring a stake in Yeliseyevsky to "help with the management" after restoration, he said.

Once completed, the new Yeliseyevsky will have twice its current retail space plus a "winter garden" created by covering an inner courtyard with a glass roof, Trifonov said. The gastronom's current entrance will be moved back to its original position on the corner of Tverskaya Ulitsa and Kozitsky Pereulok. The present Soviet-style meat and fish department with adjoining cafe will be swallowed up by the shopping center's entrance, he said.

But some Yeliseyevsky shoppers had their doubts about the restoration project -- the first since the gastronom opened in 1901.

"It's all right if they just renovate the architecture, but really, I like it better the way it is," said Dmitry Adeishnikov, a pensioner who said he's been coming to Yeliseyevsky for the past 40 years. "We don't need modern technology here."

After closing in late autumn for reconstruction, Yeliseyevsky will set up temporary shop in a 700-square-meter store situated in the basement of a building across the street from the gastronom's Kozitsky Pereulok entrance, said general director Trifonov.

At 10,000 meters, the Yeliseyevsky Shopping Center's retail area will be one of the biggest spaces available for a Western-style project in Moscow, according to real estate industry representatives. The remaining 17,000 will go to offices, a museum and restaurant. London-based real estate consultants Healey and Baker will handle leasing for the center, Barkovsky said. Rental fees are priced "at the bottom end of the market," he said, and should range from $1,000 to $2,000 per square meter for retail space and around $800 per square meter for office space.

No potential tenants have yet been located for the center, said Hugh Elphick, a Healey and Baker consultant.

Although plans are far from finalized, Barkovsky said Dayrun would ideally like to see a mid-priced Western department store occupy the center's retail space -- a phenomenon he called "long overdue" in Moscow.

"For example, we all know that in Moscow you can find any kind of fridge you want, but you have to run into 50 stores to do it," he said. "We want to make a shopping center where every Russian could go and find very basic things that they need."

A reminder of the Soviet past, however, will remain amidst all the capitalist glitter. Currently housed in the Yeliseyevsky building, the museum dedicated to Soviet writer Nikolai Ostrovsky, author of the Stalinist classic "How the Steel Was Tempered," will take up 1,000 square meters on the center's fifth floor, Barkovsky said.