MOSCOW — This capital city that combines winding medieval streets, Communist drabness and modern kitsch has embarked on a massive facelift to remove all the Soviet-era wrinkles. But the disruptions are angering many Muscovites — who wouldn’t dare to complain openly in the old repressive days.
“I feel like (our house is) stuck in the middle of these two constant construction sites,” said Julia Rieth, 28, drinking white wine with ice at a ukulele-themed sidewalk café off of Moscow’s Pokrovka Street.
A decade ago, a handful of boutiques and restaurants struggled for space on dreary, narrow sidewalks on Maroseika and Pokrovka, a continuous street that runs northeast from the Kremlin. In 2014, it became one of the first areas to be renovated as part of central Moscow’s reconstruction. Now, amid rows of colorful facades, expanded pedestrian sidewalks are filled with outdoor cafes, musicians and strolling hipsters.
“Streets are being renovated, it’s hard, but we understand why it’s happening because we can see the end result,” said Rieth, an entrepreneur who owns an apartment in the city center. “It’s fantastic compared to the cracking asphalt there was before. So as much as (the inconvenience) sucks, it’s worth it.”
More than 100 streets have been renovated in the past two years, and another 87 are slated for improvements by 2018, when Moscow hosts the World Cup soccer tournament.
The effort is popular — 86% of residents approve, according to a recent poll by the Center for Political Technologies. Yet a vocal minority of residents say authorities are ignoring their voices and ruining their city with gentrification and construction that is creating traffic jams everywhere.
“As a lot of Muscovites born and raised here, I feel the Moscow government hasn’t just failed to understand the city, it outright hates it,” said Ksenia Moldavskaya, 50, a literary critic who has lived in Moscow all her life. “They first have to live here. As it is, they are taking away our city from us. Not just parts of it, but its very spirit.”