No takers for homes in Kiev's luxury ghost town of Vozdvyzhenka

Prime properties in heart of Ukrainian capital stand empty, a casualty of the 2008 downturn

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 4:59am
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They call it the millionaires' ghost town; dozens of brightly coloured houses in mock-19th century style, positioned elegantly in a ravine in the historical heart of Kiev.

By day, Vozdvyzhenka is popular with city walkers, wedding photo sessions and music clip shoots. But by night, the 17-hectare development falls quiet, its buildings dark, its street all but deserted.

Despite its prime location and agreeable facades, hardly anyone lives there. It was conceived 10 years ago as a desirable neighbourhood for the great and the good of the Ukrainian capital.

But after a deep economic downturn withered Kiev in 2008 and 2009, the £85 million (HK$1 billion) development has lain fallow, a headache for its developers and a monument to the folly of grand designs in fragile economies.

"We were knocked down in 2008,"says Taras Ziabkin, deputy head of Kievgorstroy-1, the company that developed the project. "I will not hide that the demand dropped drastically then."

Ziabkin remembers that at the peak of sales in summer 2008 an average price of a 120-square-metre apartment was more than £533,000. Now the same flat costs only £228,000. Ziabkin rejects descriptions by locals of Vozdvyzhenka as a "dead town", saying that 50 of its 250 apartments have residents and that repairmen are working on a further 50 for new tenants.

"You should understand that many of our buyers live abroad and did the purchases as an investment," explains Ziabkin, adding that he hopes to sell the remaining apartments by the end of 2014.

But Georgy Duchovychniy, a prominent Kiev architect, thinks modern Vozdvyzhenka will never be inhabited, and blames its developers for ruining one of the most beautiful areas of the city. "There are building rules, common sense and there is also a greed which destroys them," he says.

Sitting in his studio, Duchovychniy looks at photos of old Vozdvyzhenka that was for centuries inhabited by the craftsmen - potters and skinners - after whom the local streets received their names.

Vozdvyzhenka is named after the local Khrestovozdvyzhenska church, known as a place of baptism of the Soviet Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov.

The new plan of reconstruction emerged in the early 2000s and works started in 2003. Duchovychniy says the developers wanted to echo past-Soviet plans, but in the pursuit of profit they increased the number of floors, ignoring the need to expand the foundations and develop building communications.

But for now only construction workers and passers-by are seen at Vozdvyzhenka.

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