MOSCOW (RFE/RL)–The Mayor of Moscow reaffirmed on Wednesday a pledge to support a massive redevelopment project in Yerevan which the Armenian government says will require billions of dollars in investments.
The government announced early this year plans for building a new upscale residential and financial district in place of a rundown neighborhood perched on a hill outside the city center.
Moscow’s longtime Mayor Yuri Luzhkov endorsed the ambitious project, estimated at $6 billion, after inspecting the site during a January visit to Yerevan. Luzhkov, who has presided over a post-Soviet construction boom in the Russian capital, expressed his readiness to help attract large-scale Russian investments sought by the Armenian side.
His first deputy, Vladimir Resin, discussed the matter with Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian and other Armenian officials on Wednesday. “We agreed to jointly promote this project,” he told journalists at the Noragyugh neighborhood. “In many ways, it is similar to projects which we have been implementing in Moscow and which will be completed in the next two or three years.”
“Most importantly, we agreed not to allow construction mistakes committed in Moscow to be repeated here and, conversely, to make sure that all the positive things that we have achieved in Moscow are used here,” Resin said.
Resin would not be drawn on what concrete form the Moscow municipality’s support for the project could take or potential amounts of Russian investments. He said things should become clearer after the Armenian side approves an architectural master plan for redeveloping the area.
Beglarian likewise skirted questions about funding for the project and possible dates for its launch. He said only that construction will not get underway until the authorities resettle Noragyugh’s 1,500 or so families in a dozen apartment blocks to be built for them elsewhere in the city.
“We must first have apartments where our residents would love to move in and only then start the redevelopment,” the Yerevan mayor told reporters.
The Armenian capital and especially its center have already undergone considerable redevelopment over the past decade. The process has been marred by forcible expulsions of hundreds of families unhappy with dismal government compensations for their properties.
Some Noragyugh residents are worried that they too may not be properly compensated for their properties. “If I could repair my house, I would not like to move out,” one woman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I don’t know where they want to resettle us.”
But many other locals look forward to the opportunity to swap their mostly decrepit houses for modern apartments. “I’m happy that they are planning to tear down the neighborhood,” one of them said. “We don’t live in normal conditions here.”