State mandates and private solutions: restoring cultural landmarks in Moscow

State mandates and private solutions: restoring cultural landmarks in Moscow
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Yevgeny Samarin
Over the past few years, private investors have restored the Large Hesperidium/Wild Orange Greenhouse, the House with Caryatids, a city estate on Podsosensky Pereulok and 16 other historical buildings. discusses how a preferential lease programme works that stipulates rental payments of one rouble per square metre, and what unusual pavilions are scheduled to be restored.

Mutually beneficial cooperation

Launched in 2012, the city’s pragmatic programme stipulating reduced land lease rates at one rouble per square metre has nothing to do with charity. Investors involved in the programme receive certain privileges from the city. This makes it possible to quickly recoup expenses and obtain profits. Over the past five years, programme participants have invested in about 20 old buildings and have restored five of them.

New projects in the works

On 24 November, the Department for Competition Policy held an auction for the right to lease cultural landmarks under the preferential lease programme stipulating payments of one rouble per square metre. The first landmark is a classic residential building of the Naumov-Volkonsky family estate at 36Prechistenka Street, Bldg.2. The second landmark is a tram-stop pavilion at 17 Krasnostudenchesky Proyezd in the Timiryazevsky District. But how did this tram stop become a cultural landmark?

It is among the oldest tram stops in the city. The first wooden pavilion was built at 17 Krasnostudenchesky Proyezd in the late 1890s. A steam tram shuttling between Butyrskaya Zastava and the Petrovskaya Agricultural Academy stopped here. The pavilion was upgraded about 30 years later and received a sturdy pig-iron framework, which survives to this day. This pavilion is part of tram route No. 27, where famous Russian writer Konstantin Paustovsky once worked as a conductor.

Experts believe this 39 square metre pavilion can be restored in about six months and converted into a retail outlet. Its small area is a major plus.

The house on Prechistenka Street is quite valuable because it was part of a mansion, built in 1833 for Major General Mikhail Naumov and Princess Natalia Volkonskaya. In the late 19th century, the estate was converted into a residential building and leased out to tenants. The Krupskaya Library was located here from 1926–2015. The two-story mansion presents a major challenge to investors, because its total area is almost 1,000 square metres, including the basement. Apart from restoring the building and adapting it to modern use, it is necessary to improve the nearby territory.

These historical landmarks have not been upgraded yet, but some buildings, restored under the preferential lease programme, are already pleasing to the eye.

House with Caryatids

Address: 7 Pechatnikov Pereulok

Built in 1842, this house first belonged to a petty bourgeoisie family and was later purchased by merchants. Workman Pyotr Sysoyev who was invited to Moscow to decorate the hotel Metropol and Filippov’s bakery on Tverskaya Street with plasterwork, purchased it in 1896. The new owner established a workshop there, rebuilt the mansion, installed Caryatids and other decorative elements on its façade and also etched the monogram PS (Pyotr Sysoyev) in the centre. The building thus became one large visiting card.

Apart from its long history and magnificent façade, the building boasts a unique performer's biography. In 1971, the building starred as the mansion of Ellochka the Man-Eater in Leonid Gaidai’s comedy “12 Chairs.” According to some architecture buffs, the building also starred in Yury Kara’s film “War Began Tomorrow” and in several other films.

Unfortunately, the mansion’s merits failed to prevent its decay. During the Soviet period, its tenants changed hands constantly and behaved in a rather uncivilised manner. They removed stoves, dismantled floor-and-ceiling partitions and even demolished walls with plasterwork. At some point, the authorities even wanted to tear down the building, but activists managed to save it. In 2012, the Moscow Government listed the mansion among other cultural landmarks.

It took the investor only 12 months to restore the building to all its former splendour. Merited Architect of Russia Leonid Ostrovsky, acting as the project’s head of research, studied the building’s wooden structures, stonework and brickwork, plasterwork, stucco moulding and also researched various archives. The restoration of stucco moulding on the second floor proved the most difficult and painstaking part of the project.

In September 2013, Sergei Sobyanin presented the first certificate under the preferential lease programme, stipulating one rouble payments per square metre. In December 2013, the building’s leaseholder received the Moscow restoration 2013 award in the category Best Organisation of Renovation-Restoration Work.

Main building of an 18th–19th century city estate

Address: 23 Podsosensky Pereulok, Bldg. 3

This is the main building of an estate complex, completed in the late 18th century (presumably in 1785). It became famous much later, in 1880, when architect Konstantin Busse altered its design in line with the Neo-Classicism concept. His most famous projects include the Greek Monastery of St Nicholas and the western extension of the Moscow Kremlin’s Assumption Cathedral.

In Soviet times, the former merchant estate was nationalised and converted into a footwear factory and a dormitory for workers. In 2012, the main building of the estate became one of the first cultural landmarks to be included in the preferential lease programme stipulating one rouble payments per square metre.

Accident-prevention, repair, renovation and restoration work was conducted on Podsosensky Pereulok from November 2012 through December 2013 under the guidance of chief project architect Tatiana Borisova. Ms Borisova also headed an expert team that restored the House with Caryatids. Honoured Restorer of Moscow Nina Baryshkova, the project’s chief engineer, oversaw the works. Despite the good reputation of these experts, the project was the target of various criticisms, including concerns about the replacement of wooden walls on the second floor with gas-silica bricks, a modern construction material.

In May 2014, members of the Academic-Methodological Council at Moscow’s  Department of Cultural Heritage visited the building to assess restoration quality. Experts confirmed that its restoration was fully in line with the approved scientific project, and that materials identical to their 18th century equivalents were used.

The renovated mansion serves as a business centre for holding various receptions, presentations and historical auctions. A spokesperson for the investor company stressed that the building will be open to the general public.

Large Orange Greenhouse in Lefortovo

Address: 1/10 Gospitalnaya Square

The building was part of the Catherine Palace, a palace-park facility built for Empress Catherine the Great in place of the Annenhof Imperial Palace. An outstanding example of Russian Classicism, the rectangular building with several courtyards ranked among the largest city structures of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Many famous architects, including Giacomo Quarenghi and Osip Bove, were involved in building and altering the facility.

The Hesperidium/Wild Orange Greenhouse was part of office buildings that underscored the palace’s grandeur in line with the architects’ concept. (Editor’s Note: Hesperidium, an evergreen citrus plant, is reportedly a cross between a tangerine and a fruit called shaddock (Citrus maxima) and is sometimes called "bitter orange" for its peculiar taste). The greenhouse was shut down in the first half of the 19th century and was converted into a barracks for the 2nd Moscow Cadet Corps. In the second half of the 19th century, it served as a residential building for cadets of the Moscow Military Paramedics School.

“Peace to the shacks! War on the palaces!” This quotation from Karl Georg Büchner (1813–1837), a German dramatist and writer of poetry and prose, became very popular among 20th century revolutionaries. In reality, the palace housed the Military Academy of the Soviet Tank and Armour Force, and all nearby buildings were neglected. Until 1982, the former greenhouse-barracks served as a dormitory for workers and later fell into disuse. Over the next 30 years, the building gradually deteriorated, its roof disappeared and the façade and walls virtually ceased to exist. The building’s pitiful remains were nearly demolished during the construction of the Third Ring Road, which eventually bypassed these remains.

Despite the building’s sorry state, investors took a lively interest in it, and its initial bidding price, announced during a July 2013 auction, soared 11 times over. The successful bidder completed all research, design, accident-prevention and restoration works in less than 12 months. In late June 2014, Moscow’s  Property Department allowed the investor to use the building under the preferential lease programme. Although still modest, the building retains its proud bearing, clean and tidy stature and occupies a befitting place as part of the Catherine Palace complex.

Administrative building at Ratmanov Chambers

Address: 11 Bolshoi Kozlovsky Pereulok, Bldg. 4

Built in 1927, this single-storey structure received another floor in 1974. Despite its minimal historical significance, the building is part of a large estate complex with a long heritage. In the late 17th century, Andrian Ratmanov, an official from the Military Affairs Prikaz (Ministry) had a residential building erected here. A century later, Prince I. B. Kozlovsky, for whom Bolshoi Kozlovsky Pereulok is named, converted the building into a Classicism-style mansion with a triangular façade and two outbuildings. In the early 19th century, Colonel Vasily Sukhovo-Kobylin, the father of the famous playwright Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin, bought the building. The Yusupov clan purchased the building in the 1880s and leased it out to other tenants.

The estate’s administrative building/service centre was auctioned off in June 2014, with experts noting its rundown state. Slavyanka Co. offered to rent the building for 8.87 million roubles, which exceeded the initial price by seven times. The company, which has already restored numerous dilapidated buildings, intended to use this facility as its office.

The restored building retains its rectangular shape, two floors and a shed-type roof. Both of its main-floor façades overlooking Bolshoi Kozlovsky Pereulok and the courtyard feature rectangular ribbon windows. The basement boasts coarse-aggregate plasterwork. The building’s interior has an open plan, but the old staircase remains in place. Its restoration and renovation was completed in June 2015.

Khludov Family estate annex

Address: 7 Malaya Polyanka Street, Bldg. 3

This modest annex with a mezzanine has been recently restored under the preferential lease programme. It is dwarfed by a massive Modernist residential building for tenants, located far behind an old merchant-family estate, which owes its fame to architect Vladimir Sherwood and also to writer Ivan Shmelyov, who lived here from 1915–1922.

Just like the estate, the outbuilding was completed in 1861. In late 2014, experts estimated its wear and tear rates at 66 percent. Most original façade elements were irretrievably lost, with only the main-floor window panels remaining intact. The building’s original interiors, except a wooden staircase leading into the mezzanine, also no longer existed.

The building was auctioned off in February 2015, and its restoration got underway in September 2015. While removing waste, experts found that its load-bearing structures were in a pitiful state. Nevertheless, the building was restored in the blink of an eye.

The foundation was reinforced, becoming a key aspect of the project. Initially restored wooden structures were used during the assembly of walls, floor and ceiling partitions and internal walls. The building’s façades and interiors were renovated in June 2016, with experts from a commission of the Department of Culture declaring the restoration complete.

One rouble per square metre programme

This preferential lease programme stipulating one rouble payments per square metre, with healthcare investment obligations, makes it possible to restore medical clinics under the Doctor Next Door project, educational facilities and cultural landmarks.

Under the programme, an investor acquires a facility during open auctions, renovates it, installs all the required equipment (this does not apply to cultural landmarks) and starts paying one rouble per square metre annually after the provision of initial services. Medical clinics are leased out for a period of 20 years;   kindergartens and schools, as well as cultural landmarks, are leased out for a period of 49 years.

Under the Doctor Next Door project, investors have received 55 properties and have already reactivated 26 of them. Investors have also received 30 educational facilities and have reopened 12 of them. Over the past five years, investors have received 19 cultural landmarks, restoring five of them.

In all, private investment contracts worth 3.8 billion roubles have been signed under the programme.