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Rosy Future for Brownfield Sites July 24, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture.

From offices in former car factories to apartments in redeveloped rubber plants, modern Moscow is slowly creeping into the city’s aging industrial zones. But in many cases, the process is proving painfully slow.

Three years after City Hall signed off on a plan to redevelop the factories on Bolotny Island, where technicians in the Red October chocolate factory enjoy unhindered views of the Kremlin, work has yet to start on the site.

krasnaya_proletarskaya.jpg  Ripe for redevelopment > The Krasnaya Proletarskaya factory at Shabolovka.

And while white-collar workers are finally moving into the multibillion-dollar Moskva-City skyscraper park almost eight years after the initial idea was approved, the adjacent Big City and Park City developments remain pipe dreams despite years of planning.

The projects are all part of a City Hall plan to clear up a Soviet legacy of dirty, often inefficient plants that cover an estimated 10 percent of the city center. City Hall launched an ambitious plan in 1999 to clear 300 hectares of industrial brownfield land in the Central Administrative District by 2020. More than one-third has been cleared so far. But before the executives and owners of elite apartments can move in, the blue-collar workers and grimy machines need to be moved out, often to greenfield sites on the outskirts of the city.

On Bolotny Island, the need to move entire enterprises, including the Red October plant, to the suburbs appears to be the main obstacle holding back development. A working group that meets daily to work on the site is still grappling with the transfer of production facilities, said Yekaterina Zolotareva, a spokeswoman for the Central Administrative District. Other sites have even more to move. Big City, a mammoth site more than 10 times as large as Moskva-City, is occupied by about 100 enterprises.

Moskva-City is progressing slowly. Out of 15 projects, only three buildings have been completed so far, demonstrating the time the market takes to digest the space after the land is cleared.

“The city government can allocate the land-use change, but it’s down to the developers to deliver the projects and the market to absorb this,” said David Dudley, head of strategic consulting at Jones Lang LaSalle in Moscow. “You need the finance and the skills to redevelop the land, and it needs to be the right product at the right time.”

There is a huge range of industrial sites being freed up by City Hall. On the one hand, there are smaller 19th-century factory sites like Red October and the Badayevsky Brewery, behind the Hotel Ukraina. With impressive architectural features, good road access and prestigious locations, their appeal is clear to all. It takes more imagination to fall for the sprawling Soviet-era plants that take up whole swaths of the city.

Land at the decrepit sites often has to be totally cleared, and pollution cleaned up, before development is possible. “In one case, we keep the facade, and the infrastructure is more or less sufficient. In the other case, you practically have to build from nothing, sink foundations and build the necessary roads. It’s much more serious,” said Vitaly Mozharowski, a partner with Pepeliaev, Goltsblat & Partners, who is working on a major industrial redevelopment.

As many of the light industrial sites in the center are already accounted for, developers are increasingly looking to larger sites that can be found further out. “The first stage has concentrated on the redevelopment of light industry, as it is cheaper to redevelop this land. Later, developers will move to sites used by heavier industry,” said Alexander Krutov of Colliers, who has worked on several office blocks on industrial sites.

One problem is that heavy industrial sites often suffer from pollution that could scare away residential development. Another risk is that infrastructure serving a site will not keep up with the development of new land uses.

“You need to have major transport improvements, because offices, retail and residential put a lot more burden on the transport system than industrial uses, especially at peak times of the day,” said Jones Lang LaSalle’s Dudley, who is working on a number of brownfield projects, including a former rubber plant near Frunzensksaya metro station. “The biggest cost associated with brownfield development is not the cost of clearing the land, but the new infrastructure and utilities you need to build to support commercial and residential uses.”

Another challenge is convincing people to sign up to live, work and shop on former industrial zones, he said. Most of all it, depends on the location. “An industrial site that remains surrounded by other industrial uses will be much more difficult than a site at the edge of an industrial zone where there is existing infrastructure,” Dudley said.

But despite the problems, developers appear to have little choice but to keep getting their hands dirty with Russia’s industrial legacy. “Most of the development projects we are working on are former industrial sites,” Dudley said. “There is a huge amount of industrial land that can be redeveloped. That will be the future of Moscow’s housing, retail and office supply.”

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