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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Office Block's Downsizing Dilemma

MTSretenka residents are calling for the demolition of the Europa House office center, saying it is oversized.
The opening of the 10,603-square-meter Europa House office center has again been postponed.

In late February, the Arbitration Court ruled that the building's construction was unauthorized and ordered Kontus, the firm that owns Europa House, to demolish part of the building and leave standing no more than 8,160 square meters. But the building's structural design makes partial demolition impossible, and complete demolition is, for now, illegal.

Construction of Europa House, a Class A office center, began in 2001 on Kolokolnikov Pereulok in the city's inner north. Kontus, as the initial investor, was to have built a structure of 4,200 square meters. The project was later expanded, calling for 8,160 square meters, and finally 10,603 square meters.

In 2002, the prefecture of the Central Administrative District revoked all documents authorizing construction, basing its decision on the Meshchansky district planning code, which prohibits construction of buildings of more than 5,000 square meters.

Kontus lodged a complaint against the prefecture with the Moscow Arbitration Court. The district officials in turn said the Europa House project was unauthorized, and called for its partial demolition to the size originally planned. Sretenka neighborhood residents also complained that the project was unauthorized, but went one step further and called for Europa House to be completely demolished.

At the end of last year, the district prefecture charged the Commission for the Control of Unauthorized Construction to dismantle Europa House to its originally planned 4,200 square meters within two months. The prefecture later eased the order to allow for up to 8,160 square meters. In February, the Arbitration Court recognized Kontus' ownership of the complex and its right to start operations.

However, the prefecture did not consider the struggle finished. In late February, the Moscow Arbitration Court upheld the prefecture's claim, designating Europa House an unauthorized construction and calling for its partial demolition to 8,160 square meters, said the district prefecture's press secretary, Michael Berkovich, and the lawyer representing Kontus, Michael Shuvalov. Shuvalov also said Kontus would challenge the decision of the court.

But lawyers consider Kontus' chances of success minimal.

"The Arbitration Court's most recent decision serves as a basis for reconsidering their earlier ruling [on Kontus' right of ownership]," said Oksana Tumanova of the legal firm Knyazev & Partners.

Dmitry Rayev, a lawyer for Swiss Realty Group, agreed. "Europa House cannot start operations yet," he said. "Proceedings will most likely drag on for a long time."

With the building's design making it impossible to reduce its size to 8,160 square meters, the district prefecture does not know how to proceed.

"The construction of the building is such that it is impossible to enact the decision of the court without causing damage to the remaining part of the building," said a district prefecture representative.

And Maria Sernvetz, a lawyer for the Sretenka community, said the civil code did not contain a clause concerning partial demolition. "Since the building has been designated as unauthorized, it is necessary to completely demolish it," she said.

Nevertheless, market participants interviewed recalled two cases of partial demolition: the dismantling of a two-story apartment building on Filipovsky Pereulok by the Don Stroi company, and the taking down of a penthouse at 6 Ulitsa Volkhonka.