Ten­sions rise be­tween preser­va­tion­ists, de­vel­op­ers

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents - By Ber­met Talant ber­met@kyiv­post.com

Dozens of beau­ti­ful but de­crepit historical build­ings are scat­tered around Kyiv’s city cen­ter. Pro­tected by the law from de­mo­li­tion, they slowly dis­in­te­grate from age and ne­glect. City plan­ners and preser­va­tion­ists dis­agree on how to fix the prob­lem.

‘Even home­less don’t live here’

Strolling around Kyiv’s iconic Yarosla­viv Val Street, an un­aware walker would never guess that an old yel­low build­ing, No. 15B, was the home a cen­turry ago of the fa­mous Ukrainian-amer­i­can air­craft de­signer Ihor Siko­rsky.

Built in 1903, the three-story house stands empty and in ter­ri­ble con­di­tion with bricked-up win­dows and crum­bling walls. The floors and stair­cases in­side col­lapsed long time ago, so even home­less peo­ple con­sider it un­suit­able for liv­ing.

Last year, a Kyiv court re­turned Siko­rsky’s house to state own­er­ship af­ter 16 years on lease. There have been re­ports that it will be ren­o­vated and turned into an avi­a­tion mu­seum, but there are no con­crete plans.

Sim­i­larly, an early 19th cen­tury trade com­plex, Hostyn­nyi Dvir in Podil neigh­bor­hood was saved from

be­ing re­fur­bished into a shop­ping cen­ter, al­though the word “saved” might be in­cor­rect here.

It took a court sev­eral years to trans­fer prop­erty rights, seized from a neg­li­gent lease­holder, to the govern­ment. By that time, the 9,000-square-me­ter premises in the heart of Kyiv had reached a state of ut­ter dis­re­pair and had been dam­aged by fire.

Fires aren’t rare in his­toric build­ings. Last win­ter blazes broke out in three 19th cen­tury houses with rental apart­ments and shops — known as "rev­enue houses." Preser­va­tion­ists sus­pected the build­ings might have been in­ten­tion­ally set on fire.

A rev­enue house at 19/33 Shchekavyt­ska St. in the his­toric neigh­bor­hood of Podil be­came so di­lap­i­dated that its brick­work would crum­ble and fall off on the road. Another one, at 12–14 Bo­hdana Kh­mel­nyt­skoho St. in the heart of Kyiv, wasn’t bet­ter: In 2016, its top floor col­lapsed, killing two peo­ple.

Olek­sandr Niko­ryak, head of the Kyiv ad­min­is­tra­tion’s depart­ment for his­toric preser­va­tion, says his of­fice has reg­is­tered over 50 his­toric build­ings in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

They were pri­va­tized years ago with the hope that they would be re­built into busi­ness cen­ters or high-rise res­i­dences, he says. But the law pro­hibits their de­mo­li­tion or re­mod­el­ing.

In the mean­time, prop­erty own­ers and de­vel­op­ers see the big­gest value of Kyiv’s his­toric build­ing stock not in its his­tory but cen­tral lo­ca­tion.

“I be­lieve buy­ers hoped to have the his­toric sta­tus re­moved and tear the old houses down in or­der to build some­thing more suit­able for their com­mer­cial goals,” Niko­ryak told the Kyiv Post.

In the past, a num­ber of his­toric build­ings in Kyiv were de­stroyed for the sake of new con­struc­tion. A 24-story apart­ment block at 51 Mel­nykova St. in the western part of the city was built where a 100-year-old his­toric man­sion used to stand un­til 2011.

The ren­o­va­tion and main­te­nance of his­toric build­ings are costly, and many own­ers pre­fer to al­low them to col­lapse and start clean with a va­cant space for a new con­struc­tion. Fires help speed this process along.

Car­rots and sticks So far Ukrainian of­fi­cials have been un­able to re­solve the fun­da­men­tal con­flict of busi­ness in­ter­ests and her­itage con­ser­va­tion.

Niko­ryak says his ad­min­is­tra­tive pow­ers are quite limited. His depart­ment can fine neg­li­gent own­ers for not main­tain­ing their his­toric prop­erty: the cur­rent rate is Hr 1,700 ($65) for in­di­vid­u­als and Hr 170,000 ($6,500) for le­gal en­ti­ties.

They can take neg­li­gent own­ers to court. But if the city man­ages to win cases that dragged out for years, his­toric build­ings will be re­turned to the state, not to com­mu­nal own­er­ship. Often, it is hard to iden­tify the real own­ers

The for­mer man­sion of Ukrainian-amer­i­can air­craft de­signer Ihor Siko­rsky in Kyiv was built over a cen­tury ago and now stands va­cant and de­cay­ing, de­spite its sta­tus as an his­toric mon­u­ment. (UNIAN)

Ur­ban preser­va­tion­ist Olga Rutkovskaya shows di­lap­i­dated historical build­ings in the Im­pe­rial Rus­sian ar­chi­tec­tural style on Kyiv's An­driyivsky Uzviz Street on March 23. (Volodymyr Petrov)

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