Kyiv's ap­proach to ur­ban plan­ning amounts to chaos

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents - By Natalia Datskevych datskevych@kyiv­post.com

Judg­ing by the city’s ever-ris­ing sky­line, Kyiv’s res­i­den­tial real es­tate mar­ket ap­pears to be on the move again, with the frames of skyscrap­ing hous­ing com­plexes shoot­ing up amid cranes. But at ground level, Kyiv res­i­dents have a dif­fer­ent view. Con­struc­tion com­pa­nies are clog­ging up the city, ig­nor­ing reg­u­la­tions by fenc­ing off con­struc­tion sites, block­ing ac­cess and leav­ing res­i­dents in­con­ve­nienced. More­over, often when new de­vel­op­ments start work, they linger un­fin­ished for years as de­vel­op­ers try to raise money to com­plete the projects.

Mean­while, city zon­ing plan af­ter city zon­ing plan has been vi­o­lated by well-con­nected de­vel­op­ers. As greed pre­vails over strat­egy, reg­u­la­tion and com­mon sense, Kyiv’s city cen­ter and its in­hab­i­tants are pay­ing the price.

Im­punity

Maxim Bakhma­tov, a managing part­ner of UNIT City, a Kyiv in­no­va­tion park that rents of­fices to tech com­pa­nies, says that the prob­lem can be summed up in one word — “im­punity.”

“There is no gen­eral plan in the city and now Kyiv is simply clog­ging up, be­ing built up chaot­i­cally,” Bakhma­tov told the Kyiv Post. “This is be­cause of the greed of peo­ple, the ab­sence of pun­ish­ment for vi­o­lat­ing laws, and (de­vel­op­ers) hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase any­thing they want.”

Over the past five years, the num­ber of new res­i­den­tial com­plexes in Kyiv has grown apace, with more than one mil­lion square me­ters of hous­ing ap­proved for con­struc­tion ev­ery year, ac­cord­ing to Ukraine’s State Statis­tics Ser­vice.

Be­hind this con­struc­tion is a city zon­ing plan, but it is vague and un­en­forced, mean­ing many Kyi­vans wake up to new res­i­den­tial com­plexes be­ing erected right next to their win­dows, and pre­vi­ously shady, ar­bo­real neigh­bor­hoods be­ing turned into con­crete jun­gles.

Olena Ter­estchenko, founder and co­or­di­nat­ing board mem­ber of Kyivske Viche, an ad­vo­cacy group, out­lined the prob­lem to re­porters:

"We have a cur­rent gen­eral plan of Kyiv. It is in place, but it is con­stantly vi­o­lated. De­vel­op­ers be­gan to vi­o­late it even dur­ing the time of Mayor Olek­sandr Omelchenko, at the be­gin­ning of the 2000s, when green ar­eas and his­toric zones were opened up to con­struc­tion.”

The gen­eral plan has been re­vised sev­eral times, with new it­er­a­tions blot­ting out pre­vi­ous green ar­eas and le­git­imiz­ing pre­vi­ously il­le­gal con­struc­tions, says Ter­estchenko. Now, pow­er­ful builders are lob­by­ing for the adop­tion of a new master plan that will give them even more con­ces­sions. The re­sult isn’t just un­sight­li­ness. With the city’s spotty land­scape of decades-old build­ings, the de­vel­op­ers’ am­bi­tions threaten straight-out ruin. In places like 2/1 Kruglouni­ver­sitet­ska St., com­pa­nies are build large mul­ti­story com­plexes next to low-rise or older build­ings, a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem in the city cen­ter. Now res­i­dents are post­ing on so­cial me­dia pho­to­graphs of the cracks that are ap­pear­ing in the walls of some of Kyiv’s his­toric build­ings. Dis­ap­pear­ing parks And it’s not just built-up ar­eas that are at risk: at times, city parks turn into il­le­gal con­struc­tion sites.

One ex­am­ple is the Au­to­graph res­i­den­tial com­plex on the left bank of Kyiv, un­der con­struc­tion since 2015. The com­plex was placed right in the mid­dle of the park, and 600 trees were cut down to make space for it.

DIM, the de­vel­oper of the scan­dalous con­struc­tion site, is un­pop­u­lar: Stroy­ob­zor, a ranking cre­ated by jour­nal­ists, ex­perts, public or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­vestors, rates it as the se­cond-worst de­vel­oper in Kyiv.

But de­vel­op­ers often find a way to hide dam­ag­ing mon­ey­mak­ing schemes un­til af­ter the city has ap­proved them. Lo­cal me­dia out­lets al­lege that de­vel­op­ers have a sim­ple scheme: reg­is­ter an un­known com­pany that strikes an agree­ment with a city of­fi­cial on where to lo­cate a con­struc­tion site, then weather the public out­cry un­til lo­cals ac­cept the build­ing, which they can then claim.

In the case of DIM, the de­vel­oper en­tered the mar­ket un­der a dif­fer­ent name — Bud­in­vest KM.

The same com­pany has built res­i­den­tial com­plexes in two other city parks — “Radunka” and “Kris­terova Gorka” — ac­cord­ing to Stroy­ob­zor.

Spoil­ing the view Another prob­lem in Kyiv in­volves newly con­structed build­ings that are taller than the max­i­mum le­gal height. In Kyiv, for ex­am­ple, reg­u­la­tions say that the height of new build­ings in his­toric ar­eas can­not ex­ceed 27 me­ters.

But there are ex­am­ples of com­pa­nies that have vi­o­lated that law. One is the Podil Pres­tige com­plex, a 13-story mono­lith built four years ago in Kyiv’s his­toric cen­ter. The build­ing, also dubbed by Kyi­vans as “Podil’s monster,” might soon be de­mol­ished, as an ex­tra five floors were con­structed over the eight al­lowed.

But Dora Peteli, the direc­tor of the de­vel­oper’s le­gal en­tity Pa­tel Leas­ing, says that the Podil Pres­tige com­plex did ev­ery­thing legally.

“I do not know who or­ga­nizes these cam­paigns against us, but this build­ing is beau­ti­ful. Maybe be­cause we did not give some­one 10 apart­ments for free, or be­cause I did not give a bribe of half a mil­lion dol­lars?” Peteli told Kyiv Post.

Ac­tivists agree that the ex­tra five floors of this build­ing spoil the gen­eral view in Podil, since it is higher than all the houses nearby. The build­ing also blocked an en­trance to an un­der­ground cross­ing.

Frozen con­struc­tion Af­ter pro­longed cam­paigns, the Podil Pres­tige com­plex now stands empty. It’s a fate shared by about 200 un­fin­ished build­ings in Kyiv, with com­ple­tion dates some­times de­layed for decades, said Glieb She­movniev, a spokesman at state build­ing com­pany Ukr­bud.

Con­struc­tion on these build­ings often halts be­cause de­vel­op­ers run out of money to con­tinue the work.

And in some cases peo­ple who al­ready bought apart­ments in such build­ings were de­ceived — the de­vel­oper aban­dons the pro­ject, but keeps the money. The fraud vic­tims don’t have many op­tions, other than wait in hopes that another com­pany will fin­ish the pro­ject or that a court will rule in their fa­vor. Both op­tions are un­likely.

One no­to­ri­ous ex­am­ple of this is the Akadem­gorodok res­i­den­tial com­plex, which has been un­der con­struc­tion since 1992. Its first three sec­tions were com­pleted in 2002, while the last one is still un­fin­ished, and more than 120 fam­i­lies are wait­ing for con­struc­tion to be fin­ished.

This site will be fin­ished by another com­pany — Ukr­bud. The sta­te­owned builder is now mak­ing progress in com­plet­ing the pro­ject.

And there are signs that Kyiv’s de­vel­op­ers are be­com­ing more pro­fes­sional.

Even though there haven’t been any ma­jor cases of de­vel­op­ers be­ing taken to court for fail­ing to com­plete build­ing projects over the past decade, they are do­ing bet­ter fi­nan­cial plan­ning, She­movniev said.

“De­vel­op­ers have be­come more ex­pe­ri­enced, and al­ready know how to fi­nal­ize projects and cor­rectly cal­cu­late their fi­nan­cial re­sources so as not to fail."

Bird­houses over­see Kyiv’s left bank that is be­ing clogged up with res­i­den­tial build­ings as con­struc­tion com­pa­nies often ig­nore city reg­u­la­tions. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

This Podil Pres­tige build­ing was built four years ago, yet stands empty in Kyiv’s his­toric Podil district on May 21. City reg­u­la­tions re­quire that the height of new build­ings in his­toric ar­eas not to ex­ceed 27 me­ters while this 13-story mono­lith dubbed as “Podil’s monster” stands out. It might soon be de­mol­ished, as an ex­tra five floors were con­structed over the eight al­lowed. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

Kyiv has about 200 un­fin­ished build­ings that stand still with com­ple­tion dates some­times de­layed for decades, ac­cord­ing to Ukr­bud, a state-owned real es­tate de­vel­oper. Con­struc­tion can stop due to var­i­ous rea­sons such as raider at­tacks, de­vel­op­ers run­ning out of money or be­ing paid enough down-pay­ments from early birds who have been tricked into pur­chas­ing un­fin­ished apart­ments.

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