VTB Bank Defends European Embankment
Published: June 13, 2012 (Issue # 1712)
ALEXANDER BELENKY / SPT
An architectural model of the European Embankment project, which is being developed on the Petrograd Side of the city.
VTB Bank, the main investor and company in charge of the European Embankment development project, held a press conference last week to defend its project, saying it would create a new attractive area in the city.
“It will be a lively, interesting and significant part of the city,” Sergei Choban, the project’s head architect said at a meeting of the project’s representatives with media last week.
The European Embankment project, located between the Birzhevoi and Tuchkov bridges on the Petrograd Side, will see the embankment turned into a pedestrian zone, with a complex including a dance theater, residential buildings, a retail and office center and a five-star hotel to be built.
VTB said it held the meeting in order to give the public more detailed information about the advantages of the project after St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko received a letter last month criticizing the project and suggesting a park be built on the property instead.
The letter was from the now former head of the city’s Economic Development Committee, Yevgeny Yelin, who recently became deputy governor of the Leningrad Oblast. Yelin’s letter attracted some support from the public, but Poltavchenko continued to support the original project.
“Of course it’s an appealing idea to build a park on the embankment, but we keep in mind the fact that the park and garden situation in that part of the city is not so bad: The Alexandrovsky Garden, Krestovsky Island and other green zones are all close to the area,” Poltavchenko was quoted by RBC daily as saying.
Poltavchenko said there were no architectural masterpieces on the territory in question. On the contrary, there were “plain buildings that, to tell the truth, ruined the view, especially of the spit of Vasilyevsky Island,” he said.
Poltavchenko said the European Embankment project had the right to be realized not only because its investors have already invested a significant sum of money into the project, but “because the city needs the project, and needs the new theater.”
A day before the press conference, a group of activists from the Zhivoi Gorod (Living City) conservation organization held a demonstration in favor of constructing a park where the State Institute of Applied Chemistry (GIPKh) building once stood, Delovoi Peterburg daily reported.
Choban defended the project, saying “it would become an impressive public space featuring [Boris Eifman’s] Dance Palace instead of an industrial zone in the center of the city.”
“It will provide new tourist views of the city, St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Vladimirsky Cathedral and become the first pedestrian embankment in the city,” he said.
Alexander Olkhovsky, vice president of VTB Bank, said it was important for city residents to know that 50 percent of European Embankment territory would consist of public space, including its dance theater, square, paths and the first floors of all of the residential buildings to be constructed on the territory.
Boris Eifman, head of the Boris Eifman Ballet Theater, which will have its own theater building once the project is complete, said the GIPKh building that was located in the area before was a terrible sight.
“The entire Periodic Table of Elements poured directly into the Neva River there,” said Eifman. “It was a chemical zone in the very center of St. Petersburg.”
Eifman said the city needed a theater that would showcase all types of dance, ranging from classical to modern.
“I don’t want the theater to be a center for professional dance groups only, but for all groups of society as well,” Eifman said.
Olkhovsky said the recultivation of the zone’s severely contaminated land will cost 2.5 billion rubles ($77.6 million) and will take 18 months, to be completed by the end of 2013. To complete the process, the top six meters of soil on the plant’s former territory will need to be removed and replaced with concrete. Until that time, entrance to the site will require the use of protective clothing, Olkhovsky said.
VTB plans to invest 47 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) in the project. It is estimated to be completed by 2017. The Boris Eifman Dance Palace is to be finished by 2016.