A new building in Peterhof and the project at 7/9 Universitetskaya Embankment, building C

St Petersburg University continues construction work on a new University building in Peterhof. The building is expected to be used for military training programmes as well as educational and research purposes — in particular, to house the robotics laboratory.

Work on the 10,500 square metre project “First stage of the second phase of building construction at 35 Universitetsky Prospect” (Buildings G) started in the 1980s. A positive project review was received in 1984; the construction was carried out from 1990 to 1993 and then stopped for 17 years due to lack of funding.

In 2010, the construction was resumed, but the following year it was again stopped due to lack of funds. Over the past decades, the original project became outdated; it no longer conformed to modern standards. The needs of the University have also changed since 1984. Therefore, starting in 2011, St Petersburg University began — at its own expense — to adjust design documents, adapting them to new fire safety requirements, new accessibility standards for persons with impaired mobility, and other construction regulations. Half the building has been redesigned for reserve-officer military training; the Russian Federation Defence Ministry sets high requirements for the infrastructure of universities where military training programmes are located. More than a thousand St Petersburg University students receive military education alongside their basic civilian higher education; military training remains a popular choice for many students. Today, military training programmes are held in various University premises located in different parts of the city, such as  Vasilyevsky Island and Peterhof.  Lecturers and future officers, as well as the Ministry of Defence, have been looking forward to improving infrastructure for military instruction.

The initial purpose of the building has not been forgotten; the “civilian” wing will have spaces for training and research; for example, a robotics laboratory will be housed in premises specially designed for this purpose. For the process to be completed, we still need to register the right of permanent (indefinite) use of the land plot and finish the project design work. The actual construction work that still needs to be completed is going to take no more than two years. However, this work can only begin after the necessary funds have been allocated from the federal budget; the project has been included in the waiting list for 2018, and we hope that money for the completion of the building will be provided.

In addition, another major construction project is now nearing completion — the reconstruction of building C at Universitetskaya Embankment 7/9. This is the former building of the Institute of the Earth’s Crust (NIIZK).

In the early 2000s, funds from the federal budget were earmarked for the renovation and reconstruction of the former buildings of the Physics Research Institute (NIFI) and the Institute of the Earth’s Crust (NIIZK), located in buildings C and Sh on Universitetskaya Embankment 7/9. This was in order to solve the problem of storing library holdings. However, instead of being spent on the approved project, and in violation of all regulations, the funds allocated for the reconstruction of the premises for the library holdings were instead used to renovate the boiler house. The boiler house was joined to the building of the former NIIZK (i.e., to the building of the future library).

In 2005-2006, the former NIFI (the Physics Research Institute) building was reconstructed. An additional building with an attic floor was constructed, which was also joined to the main building. The reconstruction was carried out in the absence of the necessary documents permitting such work (see The Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting held on January 27, 2014 (with Addendum from February 13, 2015), section 2). The construction permit was obtained only two years after the start of the construction. By that time, a large part of the funds allocated for the renovation and reconstruction had been spent (see The Minutes of the Rector’s Meeting held on December 5, 2011, section 5).

These circumstances became clear in 2007, when the first Vice Rector of St Petersburg University, N. Kropachev, was instructed by the Rector to serve on the Final Acceptance Board for the renovated building. An examination of documents showed that that the initial project documentation (which had been officially approved and for which millions from the public funds had been allocated) had been significantly changed during the renovation work. These changes had not been in any way approved by the authorities. The Imperial St Petersburg University Cultural Heritage Site used to have three separate buildings — the former NIFI building, the former NIIZK building, and the boiler house; and now a new building appeared, reconstructed illegally and combining the former NIIZK building and the boiler room. This was the reason for putting the construction on hold, and as a result the library collections never moved into the new premises.

Later, during a criminal investigation into the embezzlement of budgetary funds allocated for the renovation of the roof of the University main building, it was discovered that a significant part of the federal budget funds allocated for the reconstruction of the NIIZK and NIFI buildings in 2006-2007 had also been embezzled. See Malicious intent or criminal negligence?

These buildings are now regarded as objects of “unauthorised” construction. For several years, the University administration has been actively trying to get authorisation for the construction that have already been carried out. Since the design and documentation does not match what was actually built, the reconstructed and constructed buildings still have not been properly commissioned. The building, despite having been built without official permission, has undergone additional repairs and does not pose any risks to human life and health. This has been confirmed by independent experts. We are thus going to try to obtain legitimisation of the existing reconstruction of the former NIIZK building in court before the end of 2016, with the help of the Territorial Administration of The Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo) in St Petersburg, which has filed a corresponding action with the Commercial Court of St Petersburg and Leningrad Region. We do not yet have the judgment in the first instance; now the claim is at the pre-trial review stage. In the case of a favourable judgment, the building could be used for the needs of the University as early as at the end of 2016.