Abramovich to invest in historic island

2010-11-16 11:25

St Petersburg - Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich will invest $400m in building offices and houses on an artificial island in Russia's imperial capital, Saint Petersburg authorities said on Monday.

The owner of Chelsea football club will build a multi-function complex covering 100 000 square metres on the triangular island, called New Holland, that was created in 1720 and now sits abandoned and covered in rubble.

Some conservationists oppose reconstruction on the island, where the Bolsheviks broadcast the October Revolution of 1917 to the world, and where the chemist and creator of the periodic table of elements, Dmitry Mendeleev, had a laboratory.

Saint Petersburg vice governor Igor Metelsky told reporters that the $400m being put into the development would come from Abramovich's investment vehicle Millhouse.

Offices, museums, art galleries, private housing and a hotel are all planned for the island, said Millhouse's spokesperson John Mann, adding that it would take seven years to build.

Mann said the island's neoclassical brick arch, built by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe towards the end of the 18th century, would be renovated.

But Lyudmila Semykina from the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments opposed the plans.

"This is a protected area. Federal law dictates that the land should be used for historical-cultural purposes, and not for commercial real estate," Semykina said.

Authorities tried to turn New Holland into an entertainment centre in 2006, but the project was axed when investors pulled out because of the economic crisis.