Abramovich to develop Saint Petersburg island: official

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The Millhouse investment firm of billionaire Russian businessman Roman Abramovich Monday won a tender for an ambitious project to develop an island in the centre of Saint Petersburg.

The city's investment committee said the Novaya Gollandia (New Holland) structure which is part of Millhouse had won the tender against one single Russian opponent, a holding called Meridian.

The 7.6-hectare (18.7-acre) New Holland island comprises prime land in the heart of Saint Petersburg and is only a short stroll from the famed Mariinsky opera and ballet theatre and the Neva River.

The island is cut off by the city's rivers and canals and the currently disused site houses warehouses largely built by the navy in the 18th century.

"It will be a multi-functional complex of offices, housing, retail, galleries and hotels. We are now working on partners and architects," Millhouse spokesman John Mann told AFP, putting the timescale for construction at seven years.

The identity of the backers of the opposing bid was never clear.

The site was to have been rebuilt by British architect Sir Noman Foster in 2006 but his vision of a touristic and cultural complex was thwarted when the first consortium that won the tender went bankrupt.

Former imperial capital Saint Petersburg, which has a long history of rivalry with Moscow, has embarked on a number of prestige projects in recent years to improve its infrastructure.

Chelsea Football Club owner Abramovich was the fourth richest man in Russia in 2010 with a total fortune of 11.2 billion dollars, according to Forbes magazine.

© 2010 AFP

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