Podil Land Prices: Are You Destroying a Historical Landmark? – Here’s a Plot for Free!

The lands of the historical Kyiv-Podil have long attracted the attention of many merchant travellers and burghers themselves. These lands were sprawled on the banks of the chronicle river Pochaina, which in its turn flowed into the Dnieper. The crossing of these rivers marked the beginning of Kyivan Rus history. The convenient port in the harbour provided the opportunity to bring here a variety of goods from all over the known world. Furthermore, since the port was part of the capital city of a large European state, secure and steady trade was guaranteed. The place was so commercially viable and comfortable to live in that even after the destruction of Kyiv by the hordes of Khan Batu in 1240, it began to recover quickly, and the heart of its revival was Podil.

Already in the XIV-XVI centuries. the lower city (as it was called due to the peculiarities of the location) was transforming into one of the largest trading platforms of the entire middle Dnieper. The population was also growing – many rich and influential merchants, philosophers, and clergy moved in here and found refuge from the devastating Tatars raids. Since then, Podil has been identified with the city above the Dnieper, and, therefore, named Kyiv-Podil. In 1615, the Kyiv-Mohyla Collegium was established, the latter would then become one of the largest centres of scientific thought in Eastern Europe.

Around that time, a close ally of Zynoviy Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Hetman of the Ukrainian lands), Makariv and Kyiv army officer Sava Tuptalo received a particularly valuable plot of land near the slopes of Castle Hill in Kyiv-Podil. Its value was embedded in the favourable location “on the way from the pier to the Rye Market, near the drive to the upper city.”

After the Great Fire in Podil in 1811, when almost the entire, mostly wooden, Podil burned to the ground, the juicy land allotment was divided into several separate plots. One of these, according to the book on land distribution, was given to Lobko’s wife. In turn, his heirs in 1830 profitably sold this land to the merchant Fedor Kurliukov, who began building his own estate there.

Being a skilful and agile businessman, Kurliukov knew the price of his savings, and even better he understood that a well-built real estate doubles the value of the land itself. In 1857, a businessman sold a manor house with a two-story house to V. Barshchevsky. The buyer was even forced to mortgage his property to V. Kozlovsky. It is rumoured that the price tag then was about 10,000 rubles (by comparison, a cow at that time cost 1 ruble, and a thoroughbred horse – 5)!

Could Mr. Kurliukov, Barshchevskyi or Kozlov, who in the early nineteenth century. competed for a plot in the heart of Kyiv-Podil, imagine that in a few centuries the object of their dreams, hopes and expectations will not only be devalued, but needless?

All in vain! After the imperial and Soviet construction booms (when even the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery was torn down), the hell of the Civil War and the two World Wars, the state of the house №2 letter “A” on the historic Khoryva Street was declared an emergency. The relevant decision was made by the executive body of the Podilska district council in Kyiv under №320 on March 16, 2009. According to the provisions of this decision, the utility company Podil-Invest Reconstruction was assigned to speed up the search for an investor, who would secure resettlement of all residents, meanwhile the house would be transferred for reconstruction.

District elected officials were then surprisingly quick to decide on the future of 200-year-old monument. They were not perplexed by the fact that in 1990-91 the architectural and design cooperative “Restorer” had already carried out a comprehensive restoration of the object and no complaints about its quality were expressed by local residents, preceding district or city officials. Motivation?

Fortunately, not everyone was as indifferent to the fate of the historical and cultural heritage of the capital as the city authorities. Soon Konvaliya- Nerukhomist Private Enterprise (PE) became interested in the fate of houses, or rather the land plot under them – a company whose main activity, according to the United State Register of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs and Public Organizations of Ukraine is to provide office administrative services, i. e. renting out offices.

Good entrepreneurs decided both to reconstruct the already renovated houses to relocate all residents from Khoryva 2a and neighbouring Khoryva 2, 2b, 2v, 2h, 2e, 2zh, 2z at their own expense. “Why exchange for trifles, when there are 2 more hectares of almost ‘’free land’’ in the courtyard of the historic estate of Khoryva, 2” – apparently thought office businessmen and set to work.

Konvaliya-Nerukhomist PE chose “respectable” housing in “modern” and “promising” Borshchahivka, “cozy pearl” of the Left Bank – Troieschyna and in Kyiv Vocational Lyceum of Construction and Public Utilities on Klavdiivska, 24 in Novobilichi, as a place for resettlement of Podolians.

Having provided all those in need with housing, enterpreneurs from Konvaliya-Nerukhomist became rightful owners of the historic buildings that earlier belonged to the community of the city – it can’t be helped, these are the terms of the contract.

Once the last family left the houses, businessmen started to take apart the landmark into bricks!  Konvaliya Nerukhomist knows the value of little things. So, during December 2017, the upper floors of the Khoryva building, 2 were carefully and meticulously dismantled by the builders, and the bricks were stacked on wooden pallets and taken out by trucks.

However, on December 29, 2017, public activists together with the Department of Cultural Heritage Protection of the executive body of the Kyiv City Council (Kyiv City State Administration) managed to stop the destruction. Order № 425 / n of the Department obliged entrepreneurs to stop any construction work on the site, and on January 20, 2018, the public opened criminal proceedings against the developers under Part 2 of Art. 298 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – intentional illegal destruction, destruction or damage of objects of cultural heritage or their parts.

The lawyers of Konvaliya did not come up with anything better than to declare illegal the status of architectural monuments, which was assigned to the buildings by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine (hereinafter – the Ministry of Culture).

The company’s lawyers wandered between the courts, which each time refused to meet the requirements of the developer, but in the summer of 2019, notorious District Administrative Court of Kyiv, reconsidered the case and managed to found some grounds to open proceedings. Once again, the matter of motivation?

This is where the fun begins in this story. Being aware of the scams that took place around the house all these years and not wanting to allow another “downpour” of the case, as it usually happens with historic buildings in the centre of the capital, I filed an application with the court to involve me as a public activist in the case, a third party without independent claims. I motivated my request by the provisions of Part 2 of Art. 49 of the Code of Administrative Procedure of Ukraine, which provides for the possibility of involving third parties, if the decision in the case may affect their rights, freedoms, interests or responsibilities. As the resolution of the case is important to the community, I asked the court to be its representative because in fact we are not only dealing with the destruction of cultural and historical heritage, but with an attempt to “squeeze” several hectares of land in the city centre.

The application is successfully registered in the court office and…. mysteriously lost… Or rather, this is my bold assumption, as I have not received any response. Although, in accordance with Part 2 of Art. 241 of the Code of Administrative Procedure of Ukraine, petitions and applications of persons wishing to be involved in the case, leaving such applications without motion or without consideration are ruled by passing a relevant judgement. According to Part 1 of Art. 352 of the same Code, persons who did not participate in the case, if the court has concluded on their rights, freedoms, interests and (or) responsibilities, have the right to appeal the decision of the court of first instance in whole or in part.

But then the question is – what to appeal, if in violation of the law no judgement was passed?!!

Meanwhile, a month later, the court has, of course, reached a decision in a written form, without summoning the parties and without public involvement. Motivation issues?

And here follows another just amazing coincidence. Judgement was issued on July 9, and the Ministry of Culture did not use the one-month deadline for an appeal set by law. From this moment, namely from August 9, 2019, the countdown of a new one-month period began – now to appeal the actions of officials of the Ministry for failure to file an appeal against the court decision in the interests of the state. However, on September 2, 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, by Resolution № 829 item 4, ruled to liquidate the Ministry of Culture for the Ministry of Youth and Sport.

All is well that ends well, how convenient and most importantly – no one needs to answer for hundreds of similar cases, where historic buildings in Kiev, Odessa, Lviv, Chernihiv due to the action or inaction of the Ministry of Culture were demolished. Coincidence or motivation?

Armed with a judgement, which in the meantime was of no substantial value in the case, as it satisfied the requirements of PE Konvaliya only in terms of removing of the Khoryva 2 neighbouring house from the State Register, grief developers were on city officials’ doorstep. So to speak, we have already knocked down the houses, so now give us the land, we will build an office complex with underground parking.

On September 11, the Standing Committee of Kyiv City Council on Trade, Enterprise and Regulatory Policy was to consider the case. However, when the deputies heard that the public, who hadn’t had a clue about the alleged public hearings concerning developer’s plans approval (included into the draft decision and then submitted to the commission), would attend the meeting, they decided to postpone it. Elected city officials explained rescheduling by the lack of the draft decision. Given the situation with early elections to the Kyiv City Council, it is likely that this scandalous matter will be considered by the new Standing Committee and the Kyiv City Council.

“The Committee behaved very strangely, materials of the case disappeared during the meeting. I was able to download them from the Kyiv City Council website, but they were not… What a joke,” commented Oleh Symoroz, an assistant to a deputy of the Kyiv City Council of the 8th convocation from the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda’’ Prokhorov Antonenko who actively supported the activists at the meeting. – We have clearly stated our position – the architectural monument must be preserved! If no community or activists are involved, it happens often so that the materials are found and such historical monuments are transferred for construction. Therefore, it is very important to control these swindlers and not give them the opportunity to slide such criminal decisions!” At the Committee’s meeting, the community of Podil was also supported by Serhiy Bashlakov, deputy of the Kyiv City Council of the VIII convocation and Pavlo Kaliuk, coordinator of the neighbors community  “Podolianochka”.

 

The question remains: will the community be able to not only preserve, but keep the architectural monument from the encroachments of the developer? The buildings are expensive and valuable, for instance, Kurliukov’s estate was built in the 1830s and is one of the oldest houses in this part of Podil. Nevertheless, treatment of the past leaves much to be desired…Having relocated people for pennies on the outskirts of the city, cunning entrepreneurs did not think about either history or real estate, which they now got almost for free. Of course, they are only interested in a plot of land in the heart of the capital. This land will soon bear very little resemblance to the historical centre.

According to the information of the Department of Land Resources of the executive body of the Kyiv City Council (Kyiv City State Administration), the plot of the manor complex at the address Khoryva, 2 is currently estimated at UAH 58,407,732.8 ($2 mln). The tenant has to pay only 5% of this amount annually.  Konvaliya-Nerukhomist PE agreed to do it in good faith, but only until the construction project implementation.

 

In accordance with Part 1 of Art. 125 of the Land Code of Ukraine, the person who acquired the right of ownership of a house, building or structure located on a land plot owned by another person, is transferred the ownership of the land plot or its part on which they are located, without changing the designated purpose.

Thus, by concluding a land lease agreement with the city and by paying all mandatory payments during the five years of the agreement, Konvaliya-Nerukhomist PE will bring in to the city treasury only (5% x 5 years) UAH 14,601,933.2., reaching a quarter of the standard value of the site. At the same time, as soon as the new shopping, housing and office centre on the site of architectural monuments will be put into operation, a land plot of more than 5 hectares in the heart of the city on the Dnieper will forever become private property, bought on legal grounds and most importantly for free.

Dmitry Perov , founder of the NGO “Green Minute”

Translation: Yu. Sidak

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