• Improving transportation is necessary to keep Moscow moving.
  • Changing the location and operations of government is key to ongoing development.
  • Investment in historic city center is required, in tandem with expansion into suburbs.

Home to 13 million people, Moscow has the largest urban population in Europe and is the fifth largest city in the world.  But how does it manage for the future to ensure a position on the world stage? This was among the challenges faced by both the Capital Cities Planning Group, which entered the international design competition hosted by the City of Moscow, and by the ULI Advisory Panel, which visited the city in December 2011. James Heid from the ULI Advisory Panel and Paul Ostergaard of the Capital Cities Planning Group shared their visions for the city at ULI’s Fall Meeting in Denver. 

The ULI Advisory Panel of eight industry leaders was drawn from four different countries and had a wide cross-sector experience. The panel was engaged by Moscow’s city government to consider a range of issues effecting the city’s development: 

  • How can Moscow become a leading global city?
  • What strategies were needed to integrate the proposed expansion area of the Moscow region into Moscow city?
  • What should the design of sustainable business models for the redevelopment of Moscow’s former industrial zones be?
  • How best should investment in public transportation be incentivized? 

Heid said the panel decided “to stay focused on the city’s core and change the existing strategy for the industrial zones.” The panel felt that geographical expansion of the city outwards was appropriate as a long-term strategy, but that there were currently 15,000 hectares of industrial land in the city center which should be regenerated into mixed-use schemes, incorporating significant amounts of public space.   

The panel’s research demonstrated that Moscow was not as dense as many other leading world cities, with less residents per square kilometer than either central London or Manhattan. As a result, improvements in infrastructure are the key to keeping the city moving and increasing livability for its citizens. Moscow needs to be connected by above ground rail to support the already overloaded underground metro system. Traffic and parking management systems both needed to be addressed.  

Recommendations also included the elevation of higher education to support an innovation economy with a highly educated and aspirational population. The panel also believed the culture of government needs to change, with an increase in transparency and accountability, as well as a move from operating in silos to collaborations, partnerships and facilitation. Government should be at the forefront of developing ideas and implementing plans to modernize practices and drive sustainable economic growth. 

In 2011, Moscow officials announced a plan to decongest the city, address quality of life issues and improve global competitiveness by moving the federal government headquarters to the suburbs southwest of the city. In 2012, the city launched a three-stage design competition with ten teams of urban specialists from around the world to devise their plans for the city. 

Using the ULI Advisory Panel’s report as a starting point, the Capital Cities Planning Group’s entry brought together experts from across five different countries and a range of industry disciplines to create an integrated approach to the city’s regeneration and development.  

The Capital Cities Group’s recommendations were grounded in the realities facing Moscow today. The city is overloaded and congested; the middle class is fleeing for the suburbs. “Moscow is borrowing from the worst of American style sprawl as it expands the city beyond its existing boundaries,” said Ostergaard. 

Capital Cities Planning Group endorsed the concept of moving government offices to the suburbs as an opportunity to reposition Moscow for the future but with a corresponding effort to revitalize and reinvest in the historic city center. The plan recommended the retention of the Kremlin as the home of central government because as Ostergaard describes it “it is the heart, soul and symbol of the Russian Federation.” 

The vision calls for major improvements to the existing transportation network including the development of a central rail and transit station adjacent to the Kremlin, linking the existing rail stations within the historic core as well as creating direct links to the city’s airports, the new Federal District and the expansion areas to the southwest. The system includes high-speed train connections to destinations within the metro area as well as major cities outside the region. 

The Capital Cities Planning Group recommended that Moscow focused on the triple helix of economic symmetry; government, business and education. With this in mind the new Federal District within the proposed expansion area was planned to be anchored by three distinct zones – a world financial center, government offices and a university district. Each area would include approximately 2.7 million square meters of sector specific buildings combined with residential and other amenity buildings. 

The plan proposes an ecological framework that will serve as the organizing system for locating new development. Natural components include existing forests, waterways and lakes that would be preserved as a sustainable landscape to treat water runoff, provide carbon absorption and create a continuous parks and open space system. New urban development would be organized into walkable blocks and neighborhoods served by multiple modes of transit to better connect residents to jobs and services. 

The final plans for the development of Moscow will be devised by the government. However, the work of the ULI Advisory Panel and the concepts submitted by the Capital Cities Planning Group and the other nine teams in the design competition have provided the government with ideas to inform decisions on Moscow’s future.