Russian energy giant Gazprom might put St. Petersburg at risk of having its own Bulgaria shipwreck, as the company’s new business center is to be built on territory that formally housed the lifeguards’ headquarters.
The company first planned to build the tower in the city center, but after its 500-meter-high ambition sparked wide public outrage, Gazprom relocated the new business center to a site next to the Gulf of Finland.
The tower, however, is still causing controversy. As it turns out, the new site belongs to the city lifeguards who were planning to turn the old station into the center of all their activities as its location is very convenient, since it allows lifeguards to access any destination within the territory they protect in 10 to 15 minutes.
When Gazprom was denied permission to build the tower in the center of St. Petersburg, the lifeguards’ plans were cancelled in the interest of Gazprom investors, who had already suffered considerable losses.
Information regarding the proposed new site of the Gazprom tower leaked to the media, with the result that St.Petersburg residents, alarmed by the recent Bulgaria tragedy that took the lives of 122 people, have already launched a petition to city governor Valentina Matvienko demanding that she take measures to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
The Bulgaria sank during a pleasure cruise on the Volga River. Out of the 201 people onboard, 122 died as the ship went down in a matter of minutes. There were 28 children, 72 women and 22 men among the victims.
A check on cruise ships following the Volga River tragedy found that 90 per cent failed to meet basic safety requirements. The most common violations were missing or faulty life-jackets and no flares in the lifeboats.
The new Lakhta Center belonging to Gazprom is to be finished by 2018. It is meant to be a self-sufficient mini-town outside the city’s residential area.
Gazprom owns a plot of land in the area and plans to build a 470-meter-tall office, despite the fact that the legal height limit for buildings in the area is 27 meters.
The 403-meter modernist behemoth of a structure was first to be erected next to the city’s baroque-style Smolny Cathedral, right in the city center.
Although there are strict regulations that forbid spoiling the historical city skyline, St. Petersburg’s authorities voted to make an exception for the Okhta Center.
The decision shocked both local residents and the larger international community. The UN threatened to revoke St. Petersburg’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to intervene and call for a closer examination of the plans for the Okhta Center and of the possible damage it could cause to St. Petersburg.
In July 2010 Russia’s Constitutional Court declared that St. Petersburg’s city planners were acting unconstitutionally in permitting Gazprom to build the skyscraper.