Housing Construction on the left bank of Rostov-on-Don Is Fraught with Disaster. If Rostov-on-Don were in India, and Rostov residents practiced Hinduism believing in rebirth after death, they would probably assume that Rostov region governor Vasily Golubev is a reincarnation of Marquise de Pompadour.
The policy he pursued is very reminiscent of the position of Louis XV's favorite, who adhered to the after-us-the-deluge principle. Alas, given Golubev’s actions, an accidental flood is indeed very likely to wash Rostov-on-Don inhabitants into the river Don.
Rostov City Duma deputies approved amendments to the master plan of the city on the eve of the New Year. The decision turned out to be more than scandalous not just because the construction of two schools and five kindergartens, which Rostov desperately needs, had been excluded from the general plan. The permission to build neighborhoods on the left bank of the city was considered a truly historic event.
Left bank, right bank
Like many other cities, Rostov is located on the steep right bank. The flat left bank was historically intended for recreation. The city beach, recreation centers, and restaurants were located there. At first sight, this calls for developing the surrounding area, especially since there is more than enough unoccupied land around. However, nobody dared to start capital construction on the left bank for dozens of years, and there were reasons for that.
The situation began to change after Vasily Golubev, who came from the Moscow Region, became Governor of the Rostov Region. The new head of the region immediately said that one of his main goals was to develop the left bank. According to his plan, a stadium, a hippodrome, a sports palace, an amusement park, a new complex of buildings for the regional government, etc. were to be built there. However, these plans, as well as many other promises of Golubev, were never fulfilled. The Rostov Arena stadium was the only finished project, probably because it was a 2018 World Cup facility whose construction had been monitored from Moscow. The other projects remained on paper.
Not only economic reasons played a role. At first, it seemed that business people showed great interest in the development of vacant land, and then, after finding out about something, they abandoned the much-touted idea. Thus, the owner of Crocus International Aras Agalarov refused to build a large shopping center and residential quarters. Why would he change his mind? Apparently, he learned something that all Rostov citizens had known since childhood. The left bank of the Don is not only a beautiful place but also a dangerous one. It regularly floods in spring. Moreover, every few years it floods very heavily, so a significant part of the bank goes under the water. That's why either temporary buildings or buildings with a raised first floor can be built there. Rostov Arena had to be built on a five-meter high platform which cost a lot of money. Therefore, housing construction will be extremely expensive if, of course, everything is done as is right and proper. However, even this does not guarantee that one day the houses will not go underwater.
Governor and YugStroyInvest’s Cooperation
It comes as no surprise that local architects argued against the controversial decision even though they believed that it was the regional governor, not city mayor Alexey Logvinenko who was behind the permit. Professor of architecture, former chief architect of the region Alexander Boyarinov told the Rostov media how this venture might end. Firstly, the left bank is a bottomland area, where there are floods that raise the water level to four or five meters. After the Krymsk disaster, the Russian president issued a decree banning housing construction in flood zones. Secondly, in case of emergency dumping at the Tsimlyanskoye reservoir, the left bank will be flooded. Calculations show that the wave height will reach nine meters in case of an emergency on the reservoir. What will happen to residential houses? Finally, the flat left bank with underground water streams has a complicated and not fully studied hydrological regime. There are good reasons why nothing was built here.
Architect Andrey Doynitsyn holds the same opinion. “I witnessed an emergency release of water into the Tsimlyanskoye Reservoir in 1993-1994,” he said. “Then the entire left bank was flooded with water which stood for several more years and slowly receded. People who want to live on the left bank just don't understand that they are very likely to wake up one day in a flooded house. There will be water all around, and they will have nowhere to go.”
In addition, architects pointed out another threat. The grove-covered left bank is part of the city's “green belt.” If it is torn up it will lead to unpredictable consequences, up to climate change.
Who dared to build on the left bank? YugStroyInvest, a Stavropol-based construction holding, presented its residential development project. It has long been the talk of the whole city. One can find on the Internet images of the Perspektivny neighborhood they built in Stavropol, an example of anti-architecture and a labyrinth of human ant-hills filled with cars. The apartments are cheap and therefore in demand either due to the volume of construction, or the appropriate quality. The ability of YugStroyInvest’s head to negotiate with local officials plays a role, and the cost of projects largely depends on it as well. Rumor has it the owner of the holding Yuri Ivanov still acts as if it were 1995. At least his manners and style are very typical for the wild 1990s. Journalists and bloggers who had to interact with YugStroyInvest’s security guards and have taken the risk of asking about the company will certainly agree with this. On the other hand, Ivanov always has a perfect relationship with the officials and law-enforcement agencies. Any local developer would have envied Ivanov’s endless possibilities in Rostov. His first project which came as a surprise to many Rostov residents was a large-scale development of the former plant Krasny Aksai. The towers, 18 to 25 stories high, turned out to be supplied with gas, and the apartments were equipped with heating systems. However, when a yard dumpster caught fire and a fire vehicle could not get into the yard because it was blocked with cars it became clear that the level of fire safety was low.
Later, YugStroyInvest successfully built another residential complex, cutting down part of the grove for this purpose. A war almost broke out between Rostov-on-Don residents and the company. The city dwellers protested saying that cutting down trees in the southern city, which already lacks any greenery, is an absurd and barbaric act. Civil society activists and deputies came to the construction site and tried to figure out who was cutting down the grove under the protection of security guards. The law enforcement officers did not interfere, and the officials said that they knew nothing about it.
And now YugStroyInvest has set its sights on the left bank. Reportedly, the total area of the site will be 40.8 hectares. 26.6 hectares of them will be allocated for housing construction. The plan is to house 7,945 people.
After us the deluge!
However, it comes as no surprise that YugStroyInvest almost immediately approved the project. The Federal News Agency (FAN) hints that two investors initially wanted to participate in the development, but one of them suddenly dropped out. Either he was asked to do so, or his appearance was only needed for the sake of promoting the project. Moreover, the land could have been allotted without a bidding contest, based on the regional law on large investment projects.
Another fact speaks for the favorable attitude of Rostov-on-Don officials to the developer. The city has huge problems with public transportation and roads, and as a result, the future residential complex on the left bank is cut off from the city. But the thing is that it has been already declared to be elite, and now the authorities are saying that a cableway will be built across the Don.
“The city manager said that a private investor would invest in the project, and the city would subsidize the fare from the budget but the budget is our money. That is, we create a residential area in which a private investor invests, gets dividends, and then leaves the area, and we, Rostov-on-Don residents, daily get stuck in traffic jams during rush hours, will pay to allow the residents of this neighborhood to get to work by cable car quick as the wind,” architect Sergey Trukhachev said perplexedly.
Why the Rostov-on-Don authorities suddenly had such sympathy for the new builder is anybody's guess. However, Governor Vasily Golubev has repeatedly proved that he knows what he is doing. Meanwhile, the story was described succinctly but categorically by Alexander Boyarinov.
“None of the current leaders will be in power in 50 years, and it seems they do not care how the people on the left bank will live in a flood-prone area.”