Art Clusterfuck

What would a big city and its citizens want when they already have absolutely everything a twenty-first-century city and its citizens could want, including free and fair elections, grassroots democratic governance, economic parity, high incomes, affordable housing, good schools, free, high-quality health care, incorruptible officials, a clean, safe environment, state-of-the-art public transportation, hundreds of kilometers of dedicated bike lanes, ethnic harmony, just courts, and friendly police? That’s right: they would want a new “art cluster,” and they would want it to look like this:

2-soviet-4_ver_11_0007

RBI plans to invest 3.4 billion rubles [approximately 45 million euros] in two developments in [Petersburg’s] historic center. An art cluster with spaces for temporary exhibitions and art studios is planned for 2nd Sovetskaya Street, 4, while Poltavskaya, 7, will get a residential complex. The company has spent three years obtaining permits for the projects. Due to strict legislation, investors virtually have no opportunity to reconstruct residential buildings.* All they can do is develop the remaining gaps.

The developer acquired both sites in 2013. The art cluster is planned for the site of the former labs of the Northwest Scientific Hygiene Center on 2nd Sovetskaya Street. The company Vek has drawn up plans for a nine-story, 23,000-square-meter building. Halls and special spaces for temporary exhibitions are planned for the first floor. The upper floors will feature workshops and studios for sale, 244 spaces ranging in size from 22 to 129 square meters. The company says they are not meant to serve as dwellings.

RBI received a construction permit for the building in late March of this year. It has already hired a subcontractor, Allure, to dismantle the existing one- and two-story buildings on the site. According to RBI, the former labs were built after 1917 and have no historic value.

A commercial project like this is a new thing for Petersburg. But RBI argues that research shows Petersburgers are ready to purchase several types of real estate: an apartment, a country home, and a space for self-realization or a small office to boot.**

Source: Fontanka.ru, April 25, 2016. Image courtesy of Fontanka.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader

* That is, demolish listed gloriously beautiful eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early twentieth-century buildings and build crap like the “art cluster,” pictured above, in their place. Despite the supposedly “strict” legislation, local developers have been doing plenty of slash-and-burn-style development of this sort in the historic center over the past ten years, as readers of this blog will know.

** According to Petrostat, the average per capita monthly income in Petersburg in February 2014 was 34,129 rubles, when the Russian ruble was still trading at a rate of approximately 35 rubles to the dollar. Today, the ruble was trading at 66 rubles to the dollar, and there is no evidence, in the midst of a severe, prolonged economic crisis, that the average monthly incomes of Petersburgers have risen since February 2014. So who is going to buy those 244 “spaces for self-realization”? Or is some kind of economic miracle planned for the near future?

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