Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
Moving ministries to the outskirts would leave opportunities for reuse in the crowded core.
Government officials in Moscow are considering a plan to move their offices to newly annexed outer regions of the city. The main reason: better parking.
The locations of government ministries in the center of the Moscow has become a problem for politicians and bureaucrats, who are vocally frustrated with the low supply of parking lots in the 865-year-old city. So now, under the advice of Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, plans are being crafted to move city and federal offices to the city's outskirts and convert the existing buildings into apartments and hotels, as RIA Novosti reports.
The reasoning is that many federal workers travel to work by car, but few apartment dwellers in the city have cars. Sobyanin thinks it simply makes sense to put more car-less people in a parking-deprived area and take those dependent on their cars to an area where more parking can be made available.
And there's plenty of room for new parking on the outskirt of Moscow. The city recently approved a massive expansion project that will make the city about 2.3 times bigger than it used to be. With this added space, it will be easier to build newer, bigger, and more car-friendly government ministries and buildings. Once officials move out, the existing buildings will be put to new use as hotels and apartments.
Before the expansion, Moscow was one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, with an average of about 28,000 people per square mile. This led to housing shortages and traffic jams as the city’s population exceeded 11 million. Roughly two-thirds of Moscow's jobs are located in the city center, while two-thirds of the residents live farther out, creating daily rush hours that choke roads. Officials are hopeful that expanding the city’s borders will reduce these problems by spreading jobs out and creating more of a poly-centric city. It’s estimated that 60 million square meters of residential space and 45 million square meters of commercial space will be built within the newly expanded sections of the city. Also on the agenda to address traffic woes: redesigning the city's streets:
Consequently, the mayor now wants to change the existing so-called unicentric urban development model, where all city’s roads lead to one center, for a polycentric urban model, where roads go in different directions. This proposal has already got secured the support of some of the nation’s top urban planners. “The major reason of traffic jams in Moscow is the radial-and-ring development model of the city,” Mikhail Blinkin, the director of the city’s traffic and urban planning agency, noted. “In the mornings, everyone goes to the center, while in the evenings everyone goes away from it. This needs to be changed. If, at least, government officials are relocated beyond the MKAD, the traffic situation will improve significantly.”
And just like the government offices, the prisons in the city will also be moved to the outskirts of town. The empty prisons in the center city? They’ll be turned into offices. How appropriate.
What do you think of Moscow's approach? Let us know in the comments.