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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete Signs Off on a Tower with a View

ST. PETERSBURG - While St. Petersburgers complained that Gazprom's plan to build a skyscraper would ruin the city's skyline, City Hall quietly approved a 121-meter glass and steel tower dubbed the Petersburg Spire.

The 35 million euro ($47.6 million) project, tentatively approved on April 13, is intended to serve as an observation tower. Its supporters boast that it will allow visitors to see the city from a height almost twice as high as that of the St. Isaac's Cathedral colonnade, which currently offers the best view of the city.

The location for the new tower has not been finalized. But participants of the April 13 meeting said the most probable site was Ploshchad Truda, a square near New Holland Island.

The Petersburg Spire is to go up in 2009. It was designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, who are also the masterminds behind one of London's landmarks, the giant London Eye Ferris wheel.

Marks said the idea behind the spire was to give people an experience similar to the London Eye. "It's getting people up high to appreciate views that they would not have been able to appreciate by any other means," Marks said in an interview posted on the MarksBarfield web site.

A similar tower, called i360, is to be built in the English sea resort of Brighton in 2008.

St. Petersburg residents have been bristling over Gazprom's plans to erect a 400-meter tower by 2016, calling it a blot on the landscape in a city with predominantly neoclassical architecture.

The Petersburg Spire also is stirring up murmurs. Mikhail Milchik, a St. Petersburg-based member of the Federal Council on the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, said the tower would be completely out of place if it were built on Ploshchad Truda.

"This square is one of the city's conservation areas, where new buildings are banned and only the renovation of the old ones is allowed," Milchik said.

Milchik also said the visual competition between the tower and St. Petersburg's historic symbol, the Peter and Paul Fortress, would spoil the city's image.

City authorities said, however, that the square was the best spot for the tower.

"It has not been decided for sure whether the tower will be built, but there's a 99 percent probability that it will be erected and on this precise location," said Vitaly Ritstsi, director of the state-run Agency of City Marketing.