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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Full-Speed Renovation Renews Gostiny Dvor

Last year, the courtyard of the tsarist-era Gostiny Dvor served as an ersatz public toilet and a meeting place for local punks and hippies. A year from now, according to a city of Moscow master plan, it will be the centerpiece of a prestigious $300 million business, culture and trade center.

The grand but dilapidated Gostiny Dvor building, just a block off of Red Square and listed as a cultural heritage site in the UNESCO's book of architectural monuments, is now the center of intense renovation activity. The project, which currently employs some 3,500 workers, has attracted only $50 million in investments -- one-sixth of the project's estimated cost -- but is moving full speed ahead.

The Gostiny Dvor reconstruction is scheduled to be completed by the 850th anniversary of Moscow next September. The pace seems quick, but building experts said it was quite feasible.

"It will be challenging to complete the works by 1997," said Vladimir Rudakov, executive director of the Gostiny Dvor joint stock company, which was created by the Moscow city government to manage the project. "But the fast pace we've taken allows us to do it."

The renovation project was developed by the city's architectural and engineering bureau Mosproject 2, and is being implemented by the Moscow-owned construction company CentrTransStroi. Some 3,500 workers from around the former Soviet Union are currently busy replacing the foundation and reinforcing the supporting construction of the 11,000 square meter building, which occupies an entire block and spans a territory equal to four football fields.

According to Rudakov, about 50 percent of the project's tab has been footed so far by the Moscow city government; the other half has come from investments by Russian and foreign businesses, bank credits, and tenants who have already signed leases. The portion of city government funds channeled into the project will decrease, Rudakov said, as more outside sources of funding are tapped.

The company is also planning a share issue in the project to raise more funds, he said.

The portion of the building on Ulitsa Ilyinka, which faces GUM, will be completed by the end of September, and the space will be rented out to shops, restaurants and offices.

Upon completion, a total of 4,000 square meters of office space will be available in the complex.

Some former tenants of the building have already moved out, including the Le Menage and Cozmo boutiques. Some 20 others, including the Armadillo bar, Saab and the Kolchuga weapons shop have already renewed their lease contracts in this prime location, which now carries a correspondingly prime price tag of at least $800 per square meter per year.

"The increase of the rent is absolutely normal and will prove its worth," said the Armadillo director Eduard Favinsky, who used to pay a rent of 80 million rubles (currently about $15,000) per year. "This is the very center here, and the appearance and conditions in the building will be improved. That will increase the flow of customers."

The remaining space is still open for tenants. "There might be one big tenant or 150 small ones, either one is good for us," Rudakov said.

The building, which is two stories high in some places and three in others, will be made a uniform five stories throughout with the construction of additional floors. The ground floor and parts of the second floor are designated as retail areas; the floors above will host banks and businesses, a hotel of up to 300 rooms, residential areas, restaurants and an exhibition hall.

Gostiny Dvor's central courtyard -- measuring a roomy 100 meters by 200 meters -- will be divested of its mountains of rubbish, equipped with fountains and covered with a unique huge glass and steel roof, Rudakov said. The covered courtyard space, which will be heated year round, will be used for trade and art exhibitions, concerts and other mass events, he said.

Both outer and inner facades of the historic building will retain their original architectural form, in keeping with the city government's strict standards for renovating historical sites. About 20 percent of the interior decoration will be preserved, and the rest totally redesigned.

An eight-story garage for 900 cars will be built nearby, behind the church of Ilya the Prophet on Vetoshny Pereulok.

"This is a very complicated construction operation," said Rudakov, explaining that the facades of the two historical buildings chosen for the lot must be preserved, and that the garage will have four floors underground and four above.

Construction on the original Gostiny Dvor building, which started at the turn of the 19th century under the reign of Catherine the Great and was based upon the project of a famous Italian architect Quarenghi, stretched on for 25 years.

The original tenants, who owned distinct individual portions of the structure, built to their own varying standards, Rudakov said. The resulting hodge-podge of styles and building standards renders reconstruction all the more complex, he said.