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Thread: A "unique" development question... in Moscow

  1. #1
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    A "unique" development question... in Moscow

    Greetings!

    I would like to start by saying that I would be equally grateful for either immediate input from the forum members or a referal to web-resources where I could educate myself more on the subject. So, thanks, everyone!

    I am currently advising on about a 100 ha. land property just outside of Moscow. What I would normally do is a highest and best use analysis, and base my advice on it. The problem here is that a client wants to think of development in terms of creating some sort of a "unique idea". In essense, this should become a "destination", which would attract significant traffic from Moscow and nearby towns. Any normal mixed- or single- use I can analyze and advise on. But how do you approach creating something truly unique (yet commercially viable!), given that the scope includes everything from setting up a Formula 1 track to building a spaceship port?

    Appreciate your thoughts on the subjects!

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    How about a giant indoor water park/entertainment venue and hotel/casino?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by darkelt View post
    But how do you approach creating something truly unique (yet commercially viable!),
    The best way to do that is to combine tried and true things in a way that isn't normally done. Things that are too "unique" are often not commercially viable. My suggestion: Do your usual analysis but make a longer list of viable options instead of just one "best use". Then see if you can either 1. combine two ideas which have some amount of overlap of requirements to build but will appeal to different audiences and/or attract traffic at different times of the day or 2. tweak one of them in some manner to make it unusual.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Well, 100 hectares is enough land to hold something like a large mall, medium-sized theme/amusement park/hotel complex, etc, so you should be able to do some interesting things on it. How's its highway and transit access? What cool cultural things does the area offer and what cool foreign cultural things might the locals be longing for access to? (ie, North American aboriginal things are pretty popular in central Europe, so you might look into things like that for ideas.) I'm not so sure on a Formula 1 track, as their schedule is pretty full with existing fairly new venues - unless, of course, you could convince Bernie Ecclestone to add a few more races to their annual tour.

    Would a first-division football stadium be workable? The Green Bay Packers (USA's National Football League - metro Green Bay, Wisconsin's population is only about 220K) have successfully turned their facility into a popular year-round destination.

    Regardless, the USA is full of places that were built as 'unique destinations' that have both worked out wonderfully and failed spectacularly, so I would seek them out and read up on them. Good Luck!

    Mike

  5. #5
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    While I'm thinking of it due to them latest news I heard this morning about the Litvinenko incident, how about a KGB museum? A spy museum opened in Washington D.C. a few years ago and has been quite popular.

    Are there any emerging technologies or recreational pursuits that are just starting to gain popularity in Russia? Any types of sprts that now do not have an adequate venue? What do people in Russia go to Moscow for? What makes it an international destination? How about a "Russian Bride Mall" where foreign men could go to meet with potential spouses? You could offer cheap accomodations for the women, since they don't often have the means to even go to Moscow, and comfortable, quiet places where future spouses could chat about their possible future together. You would offer complete travel, passport and visa services, maybe even a wedding chapel. One-stop shopping for the lonely heart, or, as the case may be, the next guy to get scammed. Yes, I am serious about this!
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Is there a Russian equivalent to new urbanism or traditional neighborhood development in the US?

    Looking at Google Earth around Moscow, the development outside of the ring road leaves a lot to be desired, at least when seen from thousands of kilometers in the sky; pathwork subdivisions of single family houses/dachas, large shopping malls, and bazaars. What about a local interpretation of New Urbanism, with a mixed use (residential and retail) development based on the ideal Russian village? (Is there even a connonly held idea on what an ideal Russian village is?)

    New urbanist development, along with very-well-preserved small towns and villages, are popular shopping and daytrip attractions North America and western and central Europe. Could such a concept work in the Moscow area?

  7. #7
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    Firstly, thanks for your suggestions, everyone!

    to mendelman: a waterpark could definitely be one of the choices, especially given the lack of similar venues in and around Moscow. Do you have an example in mind for someting of similar size that has been done in a cold climate (i.e. not open-air park)? A casino is probably not such a good choice: according to a recent piece of legislation, all gambling in Russia is to be relocated into 4 zones, and none of them is planned to be closer than 100 km from Moscow.

    to Michele Zone: I was thinking along these lines, thanks for formulating in a way that makes intuitive sense for me! Would you mind mentioning a couple of such developments that worked (or didn't?)

    to mgk920: Yeah, I am not exactly Bernie's beer buddy, so I was using F-1 for the width of scope statement Although Russian laws are lax on tobacco advertising, and that seems to be the main driver of migration to new circuits for auto racing.
    The site's got a very good auto access, it's also near an international airport. Public transportation, though, is horrendous. Then again, the paying public in Moscow mostly drives. I'll think about cool cultural stuff, thanks! What about listing a few successes and failures that had been done in the US?

    to boilerplater: A bunch of neat ideas, thanks Would you personally go to a Russian Bride Mall? I'd venture that this is not a commercially realizable venue due to restrictions, travel expense and visa regulations, but it's definitely novel!

    to Dan: I think that we are a few years away from that, Dan. There are a couple of very large development projects that are set in the Moscow region; these seem to exhibit some of the qualities of the new urbanism. However, such large-scale developments (we are talking millions of sq.m. of housing) are fraught with political difficulties. Too much depends on gov't and its affiliated structures here. If they do realize these projects, we might be into a completely new era within 5-10 years.
    As for this particular property, the client doesn't want to consider residential for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by darkelt View post
    Firstly, thanks for your suggestions, everyone!

    to mendelman: a waterpark could definitely be one of the choices, especially given the lack of similar venues in and around Moscow. Do you have an example in mind for someting of similar size that has been done in a cold climate (i.e. not open-air park)? A casino is probably not such a good choice: according to a recent piece of legislation, all gambling in Russia is to be relocated into 4 zones, and none of them is planned to be closer than 100 km from Moscow.
    There is a massive indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells, WI area (a major resort center), said to be the USA's largest. See:
    http://www.kalahariresort.com/waterp...cid=1&areaid=9
    and
    http://www.kalahariresort.com/waterp...=9&sectionid=2

    Wisconsin has a climate that it not too unlike that of central and northern Europe.

    Quote Originally posted by darkelt View post
    to Michele Zone: I was thinking along these lines, thanks for formulating in a way that makes intuitive sense for me! Would you mind mentioning a couple of such developments that worked (or didn't?)

    to mgk920: Yeah, I am not exactly Bernie's beer buddy, so I was using F-1 for the width of scope statement Although Russian laws are lax on tobacco advertising, and that seems to be the main driver of migration to new circuits for auto racing.
    The site's got a very good auto access, it's also near an international airport. Public transportation, though, is horrendous. Then again, the paying public in Moscow mostly drives. I'll think about cool cultural stuff, thanks! What about listing a few successes and failures that had been done in the US?
    As for some of the successes, I would include the Green Bay Packers' sports venue (http://www.packers.com), the Mall of America (Bloomington, MN - suburban Minneapolis/Saint Paul), big 'theme' amusements parks (ie, Disney's facilities, Six Flags parks, etc). One large failure that I can think of was the 'Old Chicago' complex that existed in the Bolingbrook, Illinois (suburban Chicago) area for a couple of years in the 1980s. The site has long since been redeveloped into other commercial and industrial uses.

    Quote Originally posted by darkelt View post
    to boilerplater: A bunch of neat ideas, thanks Would you personally go to a Russian Bride Mall? I'd venture that this is not a commercially realizable venue due to restrictions, travel expense and visa regulations, but it's definitely novel!

    to Dan: I think that we are a few years away from that, Dan. There are a couple of very large development projects that are set in the Moscow region; these seem to exhibit some of the qualities of the new urbanism. However, such large-scale developments (we are talking millions of sq.m. of housing) are fraught with political difficulties. Too much depends on gov't and its affiliated structures here. If they do realize these projects, we might be into a completely new era within 5-10 years.
    As for this particular property, the client doesn't want to consider residential for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.
    Even if not actually on the site, having residential nearby, perhaps 'across the street', will make it much more attractive as a place of employment, this because many workers do want to live conveniently close to where they work. Large mixed-use commercial/residential developments tend to do very well in the USA and Canada, too.

    Has the Moscow area been trending away from the old Communist-era 'blocki' style residential complexes in recent years?

    Mike

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The Wisconsin Dells have several water parks in addition to the Kalahari. You could google "Wisconsin Dells" and get plenty of information. Another resort to check out would be the Great Wolf Lodge.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by darkelt View post
    to Michele Zone: I was thinking along these lines, thanks for formulating in a way that makes intuitive sense for me! Would you mind mentioning a couple of such developments that worked (or didn't?)
    When I lived in Manhattan, Kansas, the shopping mall was conceived of as "a town center". It was built on top of (or near) the old center of town, breaking up roads that had pieces on either side of the mega-parking lot. They donated space to not-for-profit activities, such as a "children's museum" which was only open for a few hours, 4 times per week. It was an hands-on entertaining educational experience that you could go to for free. They did ask donations but did not charge admission. The mall also hosted entertainment on Wednesday nights at the food court. I sometimes went and ate at the mall on that night so I could have a meal relatively in peace while my kids watched the entertainment. On weekends, they often hosted various events, such displays of model rail roads done by enthusiasts and "flea market" style craft events which brought in local artisans. There was also an art shop which sold the work of local artists. I think that was, again, donated space. Rather than just have empty stores, they used the fact that they weren't 100% full up to enrich the place with things which weren't so commercial in nature.

    Other malls which market themselves as "town centers" sometimes have some good things going for them but lack ...something. In Fairfield California, the mall has a movie theater at one in place of "an anchor store". It also had a restaurant inside the mall, near the theater. It was possible to buy theater tickets, eat a nice meal while you waited, and/or run a few errands before the show. These were a draw but not like the Manhattan mall had been. Another mall that I have been to which was "unique" had a small zoo in it.

    Speaking of zoos, one of the best zoos I have been to (if not THE best) is the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas. It is very closely associated with the university there and grows out of vetrinary programs and related programs. It is a higher quality and a different experience from more commercialized zoos.

    I think the above examples point to the idea that you need something which meets human needs at a deeper level than a lot of strictly commercial ventures aim at. The Manhattan "Town Center" sought to be a cultural center and to replace some of the loss of sense of community from days gone by. I see often that developers want to separate "nice" experiences from "needs". But my feeling is that often only results in the "nice" experiences becoming Fluff. Since "the shallow end of the pool empties first", in a financial downturn, fluff tends to die. But deeper needs still get met, even if sacrifices have to be made to do so.

    One last thought: Any time I have been to a laundromat in recent years, I have thought that a laundromat with a video-arcade and cafe would be wildly successful. People go and spend long periods of time at laundromats no matter how dreadful the environment, no matter how bored out of their skull they are, no matter how much they wish they were someplace (ANY place) else. They do so because laundry is a necessity, not a luxury. When I regularly went to a laundromat on a military base, people routinely left the laundromat to go grab a bite to eat, do some shopping, or run other errands. They knew the odds of having their laundry stolen or messed with was very low. From that, I would suggest that any development which serves basic needs in a more enriched environment would have a "value-added" aspect, edging out competitors that do only one or the other.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post

    Any time I have been to a laundromat in recent years, I have thought that a laundromat with a video-arcade and cafe would be wildly successful.
    These do exist. I think they initially have a good reception, but people tend to still hate going to the laundromat. They also tend to be more expensive. There was one of these near an apartment where I lived during school and this was my experience. Wildly popular, almost to a fault because there was a lack of machines, at start, but quickly fading. The place is still around, but it is no busier than other launromats. It also was almost the price because the ammenities could not cover themselves in terms of cost and the cost had to be recovered by the main use, laundry. I would always try to find the least crowded, so that I could occupy multiple machines at one time and only be there for about an hour a week.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cololi View post
    These do exist. I think they initially have a good reception, but people tend to still hate going to the laundromat. They also tend to be more expensive. There was one of these near an apartment where I lived during school and this was my experience. Wildly popular, almost to a fault because there was a lack of machines, at start, but quickly fading. The place is still around, but it is no busier than other launromats. It also was almost the price because the ammenities could not cover themselves in terms of cost and the cost had to be recovered by the main use, laundry. I would always try to find the least crowded, so that I could occupy multiple machines at one time and only be there for about an hour a week.
    Thanks. ....

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    I think the above examples point to the idea that you need something which meets human needs at a deeper level than a lot of strictly commercial ventures aim at. The Manhattan "Town Center" sought to be a cultural center and to replace some of the loss of sense of community from days gone by. I see often that developers want to separate "nice" experiences from "needs". But my feeling is that often only results in the "nice" experiences becoming Fluff. Since "the shallow end of the pool empties first", in a financial downturn, fluff tends to die. But deeper needs still get met, even if sacrifices have to be made to do so.
    Hmmm, it only seems natural to me that nice experience should be connected to needs. Why would anyone separate them? I mean, if you are creating something that does not have a straightforward financial return, why on earth would you separate it from you money-makers? Am I missing something?

    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    The Wisconsin Dells have several water parks in addition to the Kalahari. You could google "Wisconsin Dells" and get plenty of information. Another resort to check out would be the Great Wolf Lodge.
    Thanks, I'll check it out.

    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    There is a massive indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells, WI area (a major resort center), said to be the USA's largest. See:


    Wisconsin has a climate that it not too unlike that of central and northern Europe.

    As for some of the successes, I would include the Green Bay Packers' sports venue , the Mall of America (Bloomington, MN - suburban Minneapolis/Saint Paul), big 'theme' amusements parks (ie, Disney's facilities, Six Flags parks, etc). One large failure that I can think of was the 'Old Chicago' complex that existed in the Bolingbrook, Illinois (suburban Chicago) area for a couple of years in the 1980s. The site has long since been redeveloped into other commercial and industrial uses.
    Thanks for your suggestions!


    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Has the Moscow area been trending away from the old Communist-era 'blocki' style residential complexes in recent years?
    Yes, but while this makes up for a more diversified look, it is not necessarily a good dynamic. There are a lot of new apartment buildings going up that are unique, and good-looking on the outside, but quality still suffers. Even greater problem is that at least those 'blocky' apartments were build according to some master plan of the area, and all infrastructure for them was planned beforehand. Many of the new developments are built simply because someone has a plot of land and can secure gov't permission to build. This is frequently done with utter disregard for infrastructure, especially with regards to road congestion and parking space availability. Some of the fantastic looking buildings have problems with water and electricity for months after they are officially finished. So, yes, blocks are gone. But so is master planning. Hopefully, we'll be reversing that trend soon.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    I think the above examples point to the idea that you need something which meets human needs at a deeper level than a lot of strictly commercial ventures aim at. The Manhattan "Town Center" sought to be a cultural center and to replace some of the loss of sense of community from days gone by. I see often that developers want to separate "nice" experiences from "needs". But my feeling is that often only results in the "nice" experiences becoming Fluff. Since "the shallow end of the pool empties first", in a financial downturn, fluff tends to die. But deeper needs still get met, even if sacrifices have to be made to do so.
    Hmmm, it only seems natural to me that nice experience should be connected to needs. Why would anyone separate them? I mean, if you are creating something that does not have a straightforward financial return, why on earth would you separate it from your money-makers? Am I missing something?

    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    The Wisconsin Dells have several water parks in addition to the Kalahari. You could google "Wisconsin Dells" and get plenty of information. Another resort to check out would be the Great Wolf Lodge.
    Thanks, I'll check it out.

    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    There is a massive indoor water park in the Wisconsin Dells, WI area (a major resort center), said to be the USA's largest. See:


    Wisconsin has a climate that it not too unlike that of central and northern Europe.

    As for some of the successes, I would include the Green Bay Packers' sports venue , the Mall of America (Bloomington, MN - suburban Minneapolis/Saint Paul), big 'theme' amusements parks (ie, Disney's facilities, Six Flags parks, etc). One large failure that I can think of was the 'Old Chicago' complex that existed in the Bolingbrook, Illinois (suburban Chicago) area for a couple of years in the 1980s. The site has long since been redeveloped into other commercial and industrial uses.
    Thanks for your suggestions!


    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Has the Moscow area been trending away from the old Communist-era 'blocki' style residential complexes in recent years?
    Yes, but while this makes up for a more diversified look, it is not necessarily a sign of a good dynamic. There are a lot of new apartment buildings going up that are unique, and good-looking on the outside, but quality still suffers. Even greater problem is that at least those 'blocky' apartments were build according to some master plan of the area, and all infrastructure for them was planned beforehand. Many of the new developments are built simply because someone has a plot of land and can secure gov't permission to build. This is frequently done with utter disregard for infrastructure, especially roads and parking space availability. Some of the fantastic looking buildings have problems with water and electricity for months after they are officially finished. So, yes, blocks are gone. But so is master planning. Hopefully, we'll be reversing that trend soon.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
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    Build a replica wild west cowboy town with saloons, have actors dressed up in wild west costumes, stage shoot outs and riding shows for entertainment. Offer horse wagon or stagecoach rides. Build a theater, bring in music acts. The commercial area should be built looking like old western cowboy town buildings, but the uses can be part tourist, part general commercial. Plan lots of hotels and housing around it so people can buy a dacha there. For examples, look at Tombstone, AZ and Branson, MO.

    You might be able to do this with local history, I just don't know that much about Russian local history.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by darkelt View post
    Hmmm, it only seems natural to me that nice experience should be connected to needs. Why would anyone separate them? I mean, if you are creating something that does not have a straightforward financial return, why on earth would you separate it from your money-makers? Am I missing something?
    I don't just mean "nice" experiences. Yes, most commercial ventures seek to give one a pleasant experience so you will come back. But there are deeper human needs -- such as a need for community and culture -- which are often not addressed by commercial ventures. A mall that markets itself as a "town center" but doesn't have any of the substance of a community gathering place or a place for community events is just using the idea as a marketing ploy.

    Does that make a little more sense?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    How about a massive flea market.....Moscow must have old people too??

    Ohio:
    http://www.kentonnational.com/

    Texas:
    http://www.cantonfleamarket.com/history.htm

    Florida: (one of my favorite)
    http://www.floridaswapshop.com/

    Check this out:
    Scroll down to the Russian entry:
    http://www.internationalliving.com/f...a-markets.html

    The Izmailovsky Souvenir Market, Izmailovsky Park Metro
    Skilled Adoxographer

  18. #18
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    I might actually go to a Russian bride mall if I have to endure a few more bad dates with American women!

    Here's another off-the-wall idea:
    Russia is famous for its writers. How about a history museum providing insight into the lives and work of famous Russian writers? In Prague there is a Kafka museum, and places that figured in his life are marked throughout the city. But I am talking about one place that could have exhibits on the lives of many writers. For example, a re-creation of the conditions Solzhenitsyn (sp.?) had to live in while at the "Gulag Archipelago" or artifacts from Tolstoy's life...illustrations or maquettes of scenes from "The Brothers Karamazov"...the industrial revolution background that developed Marx's ideas when he was young...exhibits on the influence of writers on the collapse of communism. Well, such a place would be interesting to me, but I don't know how much popular appeal it would have. Do Russians still do a lot of reading, or are they now caught up in consumerist diversions?
    Are Russians starting to be able to have the income for recreational diversions? Would it need to attract visitors from other countries to be successful?
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Russian New Urbanism

    A Russian version of new urbanism may work nicely. Given that the area is not that large, a mixed used new urbanism residential/commerical center may make the fit. This type of development is no doubt unique and could serve as a model and new trend in development in Russia.

    Good Luck!

  20. #20
    Sounds like a fascinating project. Good luck with it.

    Someone mentioned new urbanism in Russia - I thought I read something about a new mixed-use residential development to the west of Moscow (about 400ha or so), which from memory was being planned with a low-rise, new urbanist feel to it. Does anyone know about this project, and is it still going ahead?

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