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City news
Gazprom-City Renamed Okhta Center
03.21.2007 15:53

gazprom_city By Evgenia Ivanova

Staff Writer

The Gazprom-City development has been renamed and will be funded differently, Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller announced in St. Petersburg on Friday, although a controversial skyscraper that forms the centerpiece of the plan looks set to stay.

The radical overhaul of the $2.3 billion project means that a planned office complex will now be a community and business center to be known as the Okhta Center and jointly funded by Gazprom and City Hall.

A theater, modern art center, museum, library, sports complex, shopping malls, cafes, restaurants and a park are planned to become what Miller called “the modern symbol of St. Petersburg.”

According to the new proposal, City Hall will not be the sole investor in the corporate headquarters and apartments for Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Gazprom. That idea had resulted in a public outcry.

“We don’t build housing for teachers, medical workers or veterans of the Great Patriotic War. In that context, to invest in building apartments for the employees of the richest company in Russia is cynicism, pure and simple, and a disgrace to the government,” then-Legislative Assembly deputy Sergei Gulyayev told the St. Petersburg Times in September, criticizing the draft for allocating financesto support Gazprom’s housing needs from the city budget.

Now City Hall says it will cover only 49 percent of the estimated cost of the project.

“Gazprom Neft will realize 51 percent of investment from its investment program, 49 percent will be financed by the city from Gazprom’s tax contribution to the city’s budget,” reads a City Hall statement published Friday.

The funding stucture will allow City Hall to own some of the new buildings, the statement said.

Rebranding the development from Gazprom-City to Okhta Center has effectively put an end to speculation that Gazprom Neft’s skyscraper would be moved to a different place, as the new name reflects the geographical location of the Okhta River, a tributory of the Neva River, that flows near the site.

“Gazprom is a very well-known company and it’s up to the experts to choose the location for the construction [of the tower],” St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko said at Friday’s announcement, adding rhetorically, according to Fontanka.ru news service, “Do you like these ruins at Okhta, this wartorn image?”

Philip Nikandrov, a representative of RMJM London Limited, the architectural company behind the star-shaped design said that his company was always “entirely opposed” to moving their project to a different location, as they were inspired by Nienshants, a fortress built on the location in the 17th century, Gazprom’s website reported.

The concept for the 350 meter-high skyscraper “was born from the history of this place and is rooted in architectural shapes of the Malaya Okhta’s past,” Nikandov, who is a graduate of the St. Petersburg-based State Architecture and Construction University, said.

News source: times.spb.ru
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