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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete Spruces Up Center for '03 Party

ST. PETERSBURG — More than 2 million people each day visit Nevsky Prospekt, the heart of St. Petersburg's Central District. This district includes such landmarks as Kazan Cathedral, Palace Square and the Summer Garden. The list is practically endless.

Until recently, however, visitors had only to walk a few steps from Nevsky to step back into the world of a Dostoevskian slum: run-down buildings full of communal apartments and dismal courtyards with heaps of rubbish in the middle.

But that has been changing, slowly but surely, and over the last few years St. Petersburg's planned tricentennial celebrations in 2003 have given additional momentum to the process.

"The Central District is the financial heart of St. Petersburg," said Vladimir Antonov, head of the Central District administration. "The more we invest in this area, the more profit we will receive in the future."

It is also the most densely populated part of the city, with 278,000 people living on just 17.2 square kilometers of land. Thirty-five percent of them live in communal apartments, although that figure has declined steadily over the last few years.

Although the process of rebuilding the heart of the city has been going on for at least five years now, the 2003 jubilee has pushed the administration to devote even more money and attention to this process. This summer, Sadovaya Ulitsa and Nevsky Prospekt itself were uprooted for the lighting, traffic control and sidewalks to be reconstructed.

Antonov also points proudly to the transformation of Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa and Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa into pedestrian areas.

"You know, after those streets were reconstructed the trade circulation on that territory increased by 10 times. This is what I have in mind when I talk about investing in the district," he said.

Antonov said that in the case of these projects, the municipal budget paid for about 60 percent of the work, with the rest coming from private investors interested in developing these areas.

As if to show that the district's transformation is not another Potemkin village, Antonov points out that 20 of the 100 courtyards along Nevsky Prospekt have either already been completely reconstructed or are in the final stages of work.

All of the yards, for instance, linking Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa and Karavannaya Ulitsa have already been completed, with new paving, lighting, benches, play areas, trash containers and other details.

Antonov notes that as these repair works are planned and carried out, the buildings themselves are bought up and transformed. Communal apartments are resettled, and new owners repair stairways and improve security. Property values in these repaired areas rise noticeably.

Next to the work on Nevsky Prospekt, the main project in the district is the reconstruction of Ploshchad Iskusstv into a granite and cobblestone pedestrian area by the end of November.

Palace Square itself is set to undergo a face-lift from April to November 2002. It will be repaved and completely closed to traffic.