Group Fights to Save Wooden Buildings
Seven historic wooden buildings have been torn down in Pushkin over the last two years.
Published: February 19, 2014 (Issue # 1798)
St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko spoke with activists advocating preservation of the city’s architectural heritage on Feb. 5. Film director Alexander Sokurov, the coordinator of Zhivoi Gorod public movement Yulia Minutina, Vice-Governor Marat Oganesyan and the Legislative Assembly Deputy Maksim Reznik all attended the meeting.
The governor supported the activists’ initiative to rent out prominent historical sites with wooden architecture in the city and its suburbs to investors at a low price, provided that they fully renovate them. According to the activists, all wooden architecture in and around St. Petersburg is in critical condition. Over the past decade, wooden mansions and villas, which used to be a point of pride in St. Petersburg, have vanished from the suburbs. In fact, such buildings appear to be one of the most vulnerable aspects of the city’s architectural heritage. Poltavchenko promised to consider the project.
The Cultural Heritage Preservation Council proposed a similar project in 2013. Restoring wooden buildings is an expensive and labor-intensive process, so private-public partnerships have been floated to address the issue. According to the council’s work group, who inspected 80 examples of wooden architecture in 2013, seven buildings have been torn down in Pushkin over the last two years and 15 buildings were destroyed in the Kurortny District during the last ten years. Oranienbaum has suffered the most tremendous loss: almost no wooden mansions remain there.
A similar project was approved and completed in Moscow in 2012. The program was called Monument for a Ruble (Pamyatnik za Rubl). When the city could no longer afford the restoration of architectural monuments it turned to private investors.
Under the program, historical sites are rented to investors for 49 years. If the building is restored within in five years, he is offered a lease at the minimum rate of 1 ruble ($0,03) per square meter. Prolonged reconstruction results in a fine. Such experience has already been considered successful in many cities outside Russia.
Officials and activists at the meeting also announced a decision to build a memorial and museum for the Izhora line of defense in Kupchino, where they have already reconstructed one of the World War II bunkers there. In addition to this, a decision on the Nikolsky market restoration on Ulitsa Sadovaya is to be submitted by the Cultural Heritage Preservation Council.
Another issue raised at the meeting concerned the law against demolishing buildings without first seeking permission for construction, which was approved last year. The power to oversee compliance and levy fines to builders who violate the law have not been distributed among the various city authorities responsible for building in the city. As a result of the meeting, the participants agreed to the creation of an interdepartmental working group, run by Oganesyan, which is to consider all contentious construction cases in the historic city center.