St. Catherine’s Cathedral LLC Two billionaires are bankrolling a controversial construction project in Yekaterinburg, and just wait until you see the multifunctional center they've got planned for across the street
Supporters of a project in Yekaterinburg to build a new cathedral over one of the city’s few public parks have denied any commercial motivations. “We’re not talking about another shopping mall here,” one spokesman told a group of protesters this week at a meeting assembled by Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev. “An Orthodox cathedral would add both spiritually and aesthetically to the city,” the man explained. Based on a new report by Irina Pankratova at The Bell and earlier investigative work by other media outlets, however, St. Catherine’s Cathedral was in fact developed as part of a sweeping redesign of the entire October Square area. The church will join a colossal multifunctional center with housing, office space, a gym, and a shared underground parking lot, as well as several other new buildings.
These development plans, it turns out, were never a secret. From December 14, 2018, to February 15, 2019, the city held public hearings about the project, receiving at least 192 requests to move the cathedral to another site. Officials nevertheless approved the plan, deciding that it passed all the necessary legal hurdles. In a closed auction this April, a 4.5-year lease was awarded on almost 6,000 square meters (64,584 square feet) of land in October Square Park for 3.5 million rubles ($54,110) a year, at a starting price of 3.4 million rubles ($52,565). The bidding process was over in 15 minutes, and there were only two competitors: “Capital City LLC,” a company registered in Kyshtym, about 90 miles south of Yekaterinburg, and “St. Catherine’s Cathedral LLC,” which belongs to two of the richest billionaires in Russia.
Half of St. Catherine’s Cathedral LLC is owned by Andrey Kozitsyn, the CEO of the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, and the other half belongs to Igor Altushkin, board chairman of the Russian Copper Company. According to Forbes Russia, Kozitsyn and Altushkin are the 24th and 25th richest people in the country, respectively.
So what are Kozitsyn and Altushkin building? Public records indicate that the “River Youse” multifunctional center will be up to 30 stories tall, covering a total area of 21,000 square meters (226,042 square feet), and it will include a green roof. According to the plans’ explanatory note, construction crews need the city to lift zoning restrictions imposed because of several cultural heritage sites in the area. The center will include a 700-square-meter (7,535-square-foot) gym, roughly 800 square meters (8,611 square feet) of office space, and an underground parking for 220 cars (including 32 spaces for parishioners attending services at St. Catherine’s Cathedral).
And developers aren’t stopping there: in addition to the cathedral and center, there are also plans for a 42-story building, a six-floor apartment building, two five-story residential buildings with office space, one two-story building, residential buildings with “varying numbers of floors” ranging between two and 12, and several open parking lots ranging from 8 to 88 square meters (86 to 947 square feet).
The total area affected by this construction work is 11.6 hectares (28.7 acres), including 12,000 square meters (129,167 square feet) in residential space.