"Thanks for Being Cheated Again"

Photo: http://www.tadviser.ru

On February 2, a public discussion on the project of boundary survey of the Life Botanic Garden Residential Complex in the area of Botanicheskiy Sad metro station in Moscow, built by the Pioneer group of companies, wound up at the Active Resident platform. Public discussion is the tool that the authorities use to lobby for some particular decision even when Moscow residents are against it.

The form of these public hearings – in person or in absentia – does not matter. Moscow officials have long ago learned how to mute the voices of discontent. In fact, the question of landmarking of the district is the concern of people living in a particular residential complex and the matter of promises given to them previously by the builders. However, since at present, five years later, the proposed solutions contravene these promises and do not suit people, Moscow authorities are inviting all residents of Sviblovo district to discuss the project. According to the plan, they will provide officials with the needed decision.

It seems that this "decision will significantly worsen comfortable living of all residents in the residential complex, trigger protests and create a significant social tension in the district that might threaten the implementation of significant projects in the area by the city’s authorities", the residents said in a letter to Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow. However, the officials do not worry about it. It is only from the public rostrums in Moscow where the concern for pedestrians, cyclists, welfare and comfort of Moscow residents is declared. In fact, in the place where according to the original project, the residents of the block were promised a pedestrian walkway, a city highway might be built soon. Well, this is how the Russian officials understand the comforts of home.

The story began back in 2015 when the Pioneer group received the land of the former mirror plant near the Botanicheskiy Sad metro station for development. The plan was to construct of a new residential complex. Then the developer gave out generous promises to buyers of housing. Now, with the assistance of Moscow authorities the promises are discarded.

In particular, the residents who wrote a letter to A. Belyaev, the head of the North-Eastern Administrative District of Moscow, made a reminder that when they were purchasing the housing, "the Pioneer group of companies profiled the infrastructure of the block as an entire space for residents, declared the concept of a "car-free yard", and promised the availability of the adjacent territory of the block for adult and child leisure."

However, in 2017 the concept changed. As the residents of the Pioneer apartments have pointed out, the new boundary survey contradicts the promises of the Pioneer group that promised them the concept of a "car-free yard" and "entire residential space" in its promotional brochures.

"According to the new project of boundary survey, the area of the main alley is to be transferred to the city with its definition as land for common use, while according to the planning and boundary survey project of 2017, this area was to be transferred as a CURTILAGE territory of the residential complex, that people living in the area could cross on the way to and from the metro station. Residents worry that after the transfer of the main alley to the city, a motor road passing in the immediate vicinity of apartment houses might be built along it, various events – weekend fairs, Christmas tree markets and so on – might be held and public parking might be arranged. It will not only contradict the "car-free yard" concept but will also significantly reduce the value of real estate, which was formed with this concept. The apartments in the residential complex were sold at 20-30% above the market price!!!!)".

Did you think that only Moscow residents who are being resettled under the renovation [a municipal program for dismantling the old housing and providing the resettling residents with new apartments] are offered by the city authorities to “take pot luck?” Not at all. The Moscow construction industry is equally ready to "cheat" both the settlers under the renovation and those who have spent tens of millions of rubles, and in the case of premium apartments and penthouses of the Life Botanic Garden Residential Complex, probably hundreds of millions.

It is no accident that one of homebuyers wrote the developers on the forum where Pioneer Group exchanges information with the residents of the Life Botanic Garden Residential Complex: "Thank you for being cheated again." The road which is taken away from the dwellers of the residential complex, is important but it was not the only promise that was broken by Pioneer Group. No less important was the absence of a school and medical facilities near the complex.

The residents of the residential complex recall in their appeals that during the public hearings, they were promised that the building would include a FREE municipal school and a kindergarten for children from the neighborhood. It was also promised that there would be a medical facility for the district's residents because even then the issue of availability of schools, kindergartens, and healthcare centers in the district was very acute.

Moreover, Pioneer Group seemed to promise to commission the educational institutions for children together simultaneously with the first phase of houses. According to the plan, they were to do it a couple of years later. The problem was not the failure to meet deadlines which is typical for developers especially when it comes to social facilities but, rather, private ownership of both the school and the medical facilities.

In another of its booklets, Pioneer Group says that "in September 2018 Brookes School Moscow, one of the largest educational complexes in the Brookes Education Group network of international operators, opened its doors." It provides the level of education in accordance with the International Baccalaureate program. The school has swimming pools, gyms, a dance hall, and even a robotic technology room. However, there is not a word about the cost of education at the Brookes Group school and kindergarten that is several million rubles per year, and Brookes itself is only a tenant here, while the facilities are managed by a private individual.

There is a question for the city authorities and the prosecutor's office. Why haven't the district's residents been provided with a municipal school and kindergarten? After all, it seems that equal access to education is guaranteed by law. And could it be that the beneficiaries of fee-based education in the district are people affiliated with Pioneer Group or some of the Moscow officials?

However, Pioneer itself sees no problem. For those who are not happy with the fee-based school, they can recommend three municipal schools and two kindergartens, located within walking distance from the residential complex. It is true that the brochures of the Pioneer group of companies did not promise that "comfortable life" would be free. The public hearings, which the residents of the residential complex are referring to, in fact, are not equal to a document to appeal to court. No matter how cynical the situation is but Russian developers seem to be ready to promise everything to get money.

So, it is not surprising that a similar story happened in the district with medical facilities. The medical center which is affordable for the residents of the housing estate and Sviblovo district remains on paper. However, there are commercial outlets of CMD and Helix clinics, as well as private dental offices. During the COVID-19 pandemic the issue became especially acute for several thousand inhabitants of the district.

Against this background, a bridge which disappeared from Pioneer's promises and which would have ensured a comfortable passage to the metro station is a trifle. Well, you never know what exactly was promised.

However, Pioneer is not very good at providing "conveniences". The residents can hardly consider it comfortable when in a couple of years after the purchase of the apartment they will find out that their children will not have accessible education, that their families will not receive accessible medical care, and that the place where mothers with baby carriages would be walking may turn into a city highway.

Even the trivial story of the power line which Pioneer promised to dismantle five years ago, will be over in a year or two if the city authorities try their best.

In other times, no one would have paid attention to the tricks of Pioneer Group, as well as other developers that lure buyers with the promises, which will never be fulfilled and that voluntarily or involuntarily deceive thousands of people. The authorities were more concerned about the defrauded homebuyers who spoiled the ideal picture of success in solving the housing problem for the pro-government candidates.

Now, when people are irritated by a difficult crisis year, by working remotely, or even by the loss of their jobs and money, the new-made plan of boundary survey and the road which is taken away do not only cause discontent but also lead to a public sense of injustice of the authorities’ actions. Chances are they will become a trigger as a result of which these few thousand of people might join the public protests in Moscow.

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