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© RIA Novosti. Vitaliy Belousov

Belorusskaya shopping mall axed

by Lidia Okorokova at 26/05/2011 22:22

Ever wonder what the endless hassle of construction at Belorusskaya was for all these years? So did Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin.

In what many are calling the first major sane piece of city planning in years, Sobyanin has finally called a halt to the insane digging under the square in front of the station. According to the plans of his predecessor, Yury Luzhkov, an underground shopping mall was to have been built there, smack in the middle of one of the city’s main traffic intersections.

Instead, the square – and land next to another eight city railway stations – is being handed over to national rail company RZhD.

RZhD subsidiary Railway Stations Management will now be working closely with City Hall to redevelop the areas next to the city’s rail stations, RSM spokesman Dmitry Pisarenko told The Moscow News.

News of the change was announced on Sunday by Sobyanin on TV show, “Vesti Moskva: A week in the City” on Rossiya-1. Sobyanin said that the shopping mall at Tverskaya Zastava was being scrapped.

Now City Hall and RSM will figure what to do with the squares next to railways stations over the next 12 months, Pisarenko said.

Visiting the city’s stations after his appointment last October, Sobyanin harshly criticised the dilapidated infrastructure and scruffy appearance.

“We know that people find these areas awful [due to crime and homelessness] but until recently we couldn’t do anything as the squares near the stations belonged to City Hall,” Pisarenko said.

“Now that we’ve rented them, we’ll be working hard to improve them.”

Pisarenko said the whole project to improve the city’s stations would take until 2015 to complete.

“We realise that the railway stations cannot be like this any longer,” Pisarenko said.

Traffic chaos

The reconstruction of Tverskaya Zastava Ploshchad began four years ago when Luzhkov’s administration approved a project for an underground shopping centre and car park there.

The square was then completely blocked by construction works – making access to the railway station and surrounding shops, cafes and offices a nightmare.

“We will first of all try to change the traffic flow there,” said Pisarenko. “We have to open the square to cars and build new parking places for official taxis, reconstruct the sidewalks and pedestrians and create some green space.”

However, it is not clear when Muscovites will have easy access to all the city’s railway stations.

“This is a pilot year for our rental agreement. We will definitely prolong it, … but for now we want to change the street retail near the stations,” Pisarenko said.

Street retail to suffer

Hundreds of kiosks appeared around the city’s railway stations over the last 20 years, but Luzhkov was moving to replace them with organised retail in the form of large shopping malls.

Alexei Burelomov, an expert at real estate company MIEL, said problems would persist around the city’s railways stations, despite the change from City Hall.

“The traffic and pedestrian situation in this area will not improve,” he said. “Moreover, the commercial real estate there will remain difficult to reach, despite its central location.”

Eventually, all the city’s railway stations will have modern shopping malls, Pisarenko said.

“There’ll be shops, food courts and even dry-cleaning there,” he said.

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #39"
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