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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Developers Bid for St. Pete Jail

MTDevelopers may turn Kresty prison into an entertainment or office center.
ST. PETERSBURG – St. Petersburg's notorious Kresty building, the largest prison in Europe, may soon be transformed into prime commercial real estate.

The gloomy landmark, situated on the right bank of the Neva River, is due to be sold, Russia's Federal Prison Service confirmed last week.

"Kresty will be passed on to an investor, who will be able to develop it into a hotel, entertainment or office center -- anything that comes to the investor's mind, as long as the building is preserved," Alexander Sidorov, the prison service's head of public relations, said by telephone.

Sidorov declined to disclose the possible investors' names but said talks with investors were already in their final stages.

The developers will have to build a modern prison facility on the outskirts of the city as part of the deal. They will also be unable to demolish the prison building, as the complex is considered a key architectural monument and protected by the state.

The popular name Kresty, or the Crosses, for what is officially known as Pretrial Detention Center No. 1, derives from the shape of the two main cross-shaped blocks. The 19th-century building reflects the architect's concept of the impossibility of imprisonment without repentance, according to the prison's web site.

Last April, the idea that the prison may be redeveloped seemed so absurd that one real estate consultancy suggested it as an April Fools' Day joke. The London Consulting and Management Company issued a press release titled "Your Home is Prison" stating the building was to be redeveloped.

The complex would include apartments with views over the Neva and a prison museum. The release said a company called "Terminator Entertainments" would be investing in an "Alcatraz entertainment center" within the complex.

On June 24 the real estate consultancy's St. Petersburg office issued a statement that, "the press release, sent out on behalf of our company on April 1, 2006, containing information regarding the redevelopment of Kresty was an April Fool's Day joke," and said it had no connection to the redevelopment of Kresty.