Moscow face-lift plans put on hold
By BILLY ADAMS
PLANS for a thriving new business district in Moscow will be thrown into jeopardy if Russian President Boris Yeltsin loses the upper hand he has gained in the bitter power struggle.
A delegation from the Russian capital that has been in Hong Kong to promote the ambitious commercial project, the International Business Centre, said there would be chaos if the hard-line rebels won control.
However, they said an administration set up by the hard-liners would not last long.
They said they were not afraid of new rulers but feared change might throw Russian into a bloody civil war like the one that is tearing apart the former Yugoslavia.
But Alexander Khazhakyan, the project's chief executive, was confident Mr Yeltsin would prevail.
''He will show real strength and people understand they have to support him because they do not want another civil war. Russia has had enough of that,'' Mr Khazhakyan said.
''The majority of the population are happy with President Yeltsin because he offers stability and a strong government.
''We are sure he will retain power.'' The political crisis presents a huge problem for the group, which has been trying to attract foreign investment to a development that will change the face of the famous city.
Work is due to start on the International Business Centre in 1995.
A 50-hectare site only four kilometres from Moscow's heart and historical centre has been allocated for new buildings.
Plans also are to build an underground to link with the existing system, a monorail to the airport and a series of vital transportation infrastructure.
The government has pledged to cover the infrastructure costs.
Russia's first joint public-private venture hopes that, by early next century, a huge office, hotel, retail and residential centre, split into 20 sections, will have been created and that the central business district will be surrounded by 17 mixed-use complexes.
On each of the 20 sites, investors would be able to build their own projects, up to 100,000 square metres, within the Moscow Government's master plan.
Marketing studies show a need in the area for up to 400 hotels up to four-star level and 15,000sq m of office space. Rental agreements are normally for 49 years.
Mr Khazhakyan said Hong Kong investors had shown strong interest in the project and that he planned follow up meetings.
The team also learned from the territory's remarkable architecture and developments, he said.
''In Moscow, one of the main things we have to consider is our very cold winters,'' he said.
''When we visited Toronto, we were amazed by the vast underground complexes they have.
''But, in Hong Kong, we have also been very impressed. The covered walkways are something we can copy.
''Of course, in Moscow, they would have to be glassed over.'' The ''City'' Joint Stock Company, set up by several Russian private interests last year, is working as equal partner with the Moscow Government.
While the authorities are responsible for providing land and transport infrastructure, ''City'' has the job of attracting investors and overseeing construction.
Moscow officials consider the development the most important part of their aim to make the city one of the world's leading financial centres.
It would be a symbol of the new democracy and free enterprise being pushed from behind the walls of the Kremlin, they have said.
''Russia has too long been seen as a military and not a financial and economic power,'' Mr Khazhakyan said.
''We think this will mark the return of Moscow's rightful place alongside London, Tokyo, New York and other world centres.''