Moscow’s urban planning: rebuilding a part of the city

Russia’s capital city is undertaking one of the largest urban renewals in history

It is one of the most ambitious residential building programmes ever undertaken: Over 4,000 Soviet-era prefabricated buildings from the 1950s and 1960s will be demolished and rebuilt in Moscow. It covers 30 million square meters and involves two million people, or 10% of the city’s population. This “renovation programme”, as it is called, was approved by the Duma, Russia’s parliament, in June 2017. It will redesign entire sections of Moscow, which has been at the centre of a massive renewal for years.

The programme does not involve public housing, but rather privately owned residences. Under the law, all it takes is the approval of two thirds of the inhabitants to be in favour of demolition for the wrecking crews to move in. Even though the majority of them have accepted demolition, there have been protests by some against it.

The programme foresees the demolition and reconstruction of 90% of the buildings in the areas identified for renewal. Residents who have approved demolition have been given 90 days to leave their respective apartments. They are to settle in temporary housing until their new homes are built.

To win support for the programme, which has the enthusiastic support of Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, city officials promise the new apartments will be of better quality, larger and more modern and comfortable.  

Although the timetable for the next steps to be taken after evacuation has not been officially decided, the first cases show how quickly it can all happen. Some of the first apartment blocks to be emptied in the northern area of Butirsky were demolished in a single day.  

Despite the protests by some residents, most defend the programme in the hopes of obtaining better living conditions. City officials support it, convinced that it will be the most effective way to modernise Moscow.

Aerial panoramic view of Moscow

In an interview published on the city’s website, Marat Khusnullin, the deputy mayor in charge of urban planning, explained how the programme will not only bring better housing but also enhance urban development.

“The concrete jungles, as Moscow’s bedroom communities were rightly dubbed, were erected over decades,” he said. “Now they must become a thing of the past.”

According to the city’s plans, the new residential buildings will not simply be replicas of what they replace. Instead, the entire neighbourhood where they are located will get a re-think. The number of parking spaces, for example, will double, while public spaces will be reinterpreted in a more modern way.

“For example, when they go into their courtyards, residents will find peace and comfort where there will be a minimum number of cars,” said Khusnullin. “We will provide pedestrian walkways from residential buildings to subway stations and bus stops.”

All of this is intertwined with an equally ambitious plan to upgrade Moscow’s most important transport arteries. The city has dubbed it “My Street” and, according to news reports from the likes of “The Moscow Times”, it will be completed by 2020. It calls for repaving 180 streets, most of which are in the center. The city has already spent $1.6 billion between 2015 and 2017, not including an additional $1.6 billion earmarked for the remaining years, according to the newspaper.  Once completed, the city’s livability will be significantly improved, bringing Moscow nearer to the top ranks of the most beautiful and modern cities in the world