Three thousand trees to be planted along 10 -mile road that encircles centre of Russian capital as part of regeneration drive

Visitors to Moscow could be forgiven for thinking that the citys Garden Ring was named as something of a joke. The road, which is 16 lanes wide in parts and encircles the very centre of Moscow, features barely a blade of grass or a single bloom for most of its 10 miles of length.

Long ago, in the 19 th century, the ring roads wide expanse was home to verdant foliage and impressive gardens, but Stalins replanning of the Soviet capital assured the greenery disappear in favour of the current cement hoop, lined for much of its length with overbearing Stalinist architecture.

Fumes waft from traffic jams a dozen lanes thick, while at night son racers drive their sports cars at truly terrifying velocities.

But this summer, as part of an urban regeneration programme transforming the whole of Moscows city centre, there is a plan to set the garden back into the Garden Ring, narrowing the road and constructing it a more pleasant place for pedestrians. The Tsarist-era pleasure parks will not be making a comeback, but the scheme is to plant 3,000 trees along the road, shading the pedestrian regions from vehicles and dedicating a new feel to the city centre.

The first part of the work, encompassing about one-third of the ring road, will take place this summer, along with a major overhaul for about 70 other streets.

The main goal is to make the city less dirty, less loud and more pleasant, told Anastasia Gordeeva of Strelka KB, an urban development consultancy group, which has coordinated the projects for the Garden Ring and many other central Moscow streets. Lately many people have stopped driving their own vehicles and started utilizing taxis; the next step is to get more people strolling.

Dozens of Russian and foreign experts were involved in drawing up a thick stack of regulations on how to overhaul Moscows streets, taking into account the citys specific climactic, architectural and historical conditions.

Concept
Concept for the Novinsky Boulevard section. Photograph: Strelka KB

There are 3,500 streets in Moscow and we have categorised them into 10 kinds. For each type we have drawn up guidelines; everything from the angle at which illumination should fall from the street lamps, to which manhole covers should be used, told Gordeeva.

For most of the long rule of mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Moscows development was criticised as corrupt and chaotic, with little attention get paid to quality of life issues or urban planning. Under Sergei Sobyanin, who took over in 2010, the city authorities have begun to take planning issues more seriously. A number of city parks have been completely renovated, most notably Gorky Park, while new pedestrian regions, a local equivalent of Boris bikes and the advent of taxi apps such as Uber have all changed the style people get around the city.

Last summer, an overhaul of the city centre began, as many central streets were remade with wider pavements and bike lanes.

But despite the the positive developments, the improvement programmes have not been without their disagreement. Many thwarted residents woke up to find their neighborhoods turned into chaotic building sites without any warn. Whole segments of the centre became dusty no-go regions while the work went on.

In February, the city government removed more than 100 kiosks, shopping centres and cafes built without proper scheming permission, literally tearing them down overnight with bulldozers. Again, the logic was persuasive, but the execution was questionable and the dramatic destruction caused disagreement. The hope is that the next wave of urban planning will proceed a bit more smoothly.

The main thing is to make sure that people know when things are happening and know how they can avoid the works by taking alternate routes, told Gordeeva.

Also slated for redevelopment this year is New Arbat Street, a 1960 s-built concrete artery that cuts through what were once quaint low-rise alleyways to create what was meant to be the most modern and futuristic street in the Soviet Union. Now, its tall, disintegrating apartment blocks and vast concrete plains make it appear more post-apocalyptic than utopian.

The city hopes to finish the urban rejuvenation programme by 2018, by which hour many of the capitals central streets will have been overhauled.

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