"We sell not square meters, but lifestyle"


Veniamin Golubitsky, the president of KORTROS Group considers that business and authorities shall agree "ashore"

Veniamin Golubitsky, the president of KORTROS Group considers that business and authorities shall agree "ashore"

Perhaps, the most known project of the KORTROS company is the "Akademichesky" district in Yekaterinburg: the city with schools, kindergartens, shopping centers and the wood around. In other regions of Russia the housing constructed by the company, is highly appreciated as well. The recipe of success is the fact that the organization is engaged not just in construction, but in complex development of the territory, and sells not meters, but lifestyle, considers Veniamin Golubitsky, the president of KORTROS Group. The head of one of the largest companies in the country, told "The Moscow prospect" concerning his view on complex development of the territory and sense of public-private partnership in construction.

Your company works hard in the field of construction for years, within this time many firms entered the market, worked there and left. You remained. Explain, please, what holds you all these years in this sphere, what is the secret of longevity and success?

– Our company always gets to tops of different ratings, but it is not so important. For us significant is that unlike many companies we work not in any particular region, but over the entire country. Yekaterinburg, Perm, Moscow, the Moscow region, Yaroslavl, St. Petersburg became our construction sites. And we still have plans of expansion. The second feature our company is well-known for is the launch of our own product to the market which is known for everybody: now in the field of development and construction only the lazy one does not speak about complex development of the territory. But when we in 2005 said these words, nobody understood what such projects of the complex development of territories (CDT) meant, why it was necessary and what it was at all.

We implement the first in Russia and the largest in Europe project of complex development of the territory– the "Akademichesky" district in Yekaterinburg. The territory of the area is 1300 hectares; 9 million sq. m of housing is under construction. The project is innovative in many parameters – both regarding energy consumption, and regarding architectural concepts, and in many others. And we do not simply acquainted the market with opportunities of CDT, we together with the state were engaged in structural rule-making which is connected with such products to create conditions of their promotion across the country.

The third moment which distinguishes our company from many others is that it was created in partnership with large Russian versatile structure – the Renova holding. And it provides us with confidence and stability in the market, opportunity to construct continuous projects and rather confidently to treat the crisis phenomena. It is clear that we are not pleased by problems in macroeconomic, but we treat them easier, than others: we are insured from three parties. On the one hand – partnership with the state, on another – parent structure, the third one is that the project has been created for many years, and it allows postponing receiving profit for two-three years, thus neither the project, nor the company perish. We have a long credit shoulder and the long-term contractual relations.

In your projects you place special emphasis on development of the territory, construction of non-standard infrastructure facilities. Why do you consider it to be important?

– It may sound banal that for the large company the term "social responsibility of business" is not simple words, but is very important. Because for us reputation risks are higher, than for any small company. When you have a project for 15 years, the reputation is financially significant, it costs much. If we want to sell in "Akademichesky" 200 thousand sq. m a year, everything should be faultless. As soon as there appear a rumor, that "it is impossible to approach, in winter it is cold here, and in the summer it is hot, there is no medicine, there is no place to teach children", – right there you will lose rates of sales, miss competitive advantage. All of us say that we sell not square meters, but living conditions. It includes safety issues, in particular. Life in the district is organized so that cameras trace movement if required, for example, of elderly people, juvenile children. You can call to the panel – and the camera will trace your child from the bus-stop to the house. There are systems of supervision and the alarm system at all entrances which allows to cause task force of support in special situations. In our area the crime is many times lower, than in Yekaterinburg. We work since 2006, and there were only a few crimes, and practically no unsolved.

Within the project we managed to resolve a water issue, very actual for Yekaterinburg. In the city this problem is a serious one – water is bad. And we have even hot water in houses of drinking quality. At first nobody trusted that it was possible, and now everybody has been convinced. Moreover, the road network in the area has been designed so that children, going to school, do not cross the road. And it is an advantage too which may be considered within complex construction.

In general study of children is our special care, after all for many parents a choice of school is the main factor defining a residence. Here this problem does not exist – school buildings are nearby. Moreover, our schools already several times admitted the best schools of the city. Plus the stadium including the all-weather football field has been constructed therein and the pool as well. All this defines quality of life which we sell, we support and we try to make so that it increased further. So, that it would be prestigious, beautiful and safe to live in "Akademichesky".

Enormous advantage of "Akademichesky" is ecology. Among 1300 hectares of the district 400 hectares occupies the wood which we leased for a long time. Though from the economy point of view these are seemingly unreasonable expenses, but it allowed us to keep the wood – we cut down nothing, it was not allowed to build anything in a forest, and the area is protected by vegetation from all directions. And we not only preserved the wood, but, on the advice of the French architects, added the green "wedges" entering residential quarters. As a result we set a certain standard of life – and now we duplicate it on other projects.

Today the buyer notices not only the price of a square meter but its contents as well. Everything that we made is our competitive advantages. And therefore we can sell further housing rather successfully. Of course, it is necessary to recognize that in addition it is commercial calculation. But when you ask the cook why quality of his dishes does not decrease though the restaurant works ten years, he will explain: if one visitor is poisoned, all his glory will cost nothing.

"Academichesky" is your most known project, is its experience somehow used on other facilities?

– "Academichesky" for us is an experimental platform which allows to fulfill technologies and to move them on other facilities. For example, in Yekaterinburg we for the first time began to use central heat distribution stations in houses. It is huge economy from the point of view of power-saving and a significant advantage for living: from the crane there flows hot water, and there are no losses on networks. We transferred the same technology to other projects. Moreover, we took the principles of design from Yekaterinburg. Now in Perm we will build new quarter in the downtown on the site where there previously was an old hospital. This surprising place is the real park with very beautiful old big trees. The French architects together with Russian design the quarter, and the task to keep all greens is set for them, having at the same time "planted" modern architecture there. For Russia it is almost an exceptional case, expensive and laborious work. In Perm we used experience of Yekaterinburg, we keep a green zone. And it is the part of complex development of the territory of the area demanding singular solutions of problems with transport, with engineering networks.

One more project is "Yablonevy Posad" in Yaroslavl. Very high standard has been set there as nobody made anything similar in economy class. It is complex construction with schools and kindergartens as well. But the main thing for us is high reputation among buyers. They trust us because we observe terms of construction and people can count that they would move to new housing within terms specified in the contract, but not in a year.

You were one of initiators of the law on public-private partnership. What new occurs in this direction?

– Yes, we work hard for years over this very necessary and actual law, we try to promote it in the State Duma. It is necessary in order that the words "agreed with administration" were replaced with the accurate rules of work regulating that the state has certain obligations in relation to the developer and the developer– in relation to the state. So, that there was an understanding that they are partners. Not so that, one came more to grab and run off, and another – to catch, punish or shift budget expenses but that they together implemented the project, and roles were in advance accurately defined. I am deeply convinced that the problem of private business is just a role of the design manager, the project manager, no matter what city we are talking about. Thus an obligation of the state is to establish rules, to designate priorities, no more than that.

Long ago the idea concerning the state as the developer, the builder was wandering in minds, but I consider, it is not a good one. The state does not have money for something extra – to construct non-standard school, to make original gardening. At a constant budget deficit such projects would never be implemented. It concerns new systems of energy saving, and new technologies: the state has no money for their introduction. Therefore I consider to count that we will have the state megabuilder – no matter, in Moscow or in other regions, – is a harmful idea. It is just a way to spend budget funds which afterwards, as usual, would not be enough. Why the Olympic construction was effective from the point of view of terms of construction and quality? Because there were private investors who with use of the state opportunities implemented the large project. We participated in this project, constructed the largest hotel in Europe on 3600 numbers, and I know what I speak about.

It seems to me essentially important that the relations between business and state were standard defined, but not every time there were negotiations and everything was solved depending on authority of the investor, from mood of this or that person in power, success of this or that negotiator, but that the standard of relationship was set. That is still important – such law gives long-term guarantees for business. Our project moves because in due time we found support and allies in Rosstroy, and still because there was a government resolution on pilot projects of complex development of territories in which points establishing where and how to build, determining the role of the state and the investor, have been planned. There were 22 such projects planned, among them 12 were "alive". And they were implemented just because business and authorities agreed on everything at the standard level "ashore".

I am convinced that the state shall to think "projectly". I can give the Affordable housing program as an example. Who will implement it? We shall realize that the unit of this program is the project – in Barnaul, either in Perm, or in the Far East, or still somewhere where there are those who is ready to carry out these projects, and where there are conditions where under these projects can be embodied, and uniform for the country, there is a business interest. Then this "cart" will ride. And if we simply say that it is required to solve housing problem in Russia, and issue the next resolution, and it seems to everybody that it is very good, especially for those who accept such resolutions, – but the resolution does not involve those who is ready to implement it, who is ready to risk money within these projects, there would not be the success. If it is not present, all the rest is illusions. That is why the law we discuss is required.

You told about projects already being within implementation, and what is planned in the long term?

– There is a very perspective project in Yaroslavl – "Preobrazhensky". Now it is at discussion stage. We are braked a little by crisis and absence of general rules. The project slowly moves, but the administration is aimed at its implementation. It is important for us that this is a low construction project. Here experience of connection of complex development of the territory and low-storey construction should be acquired. For the central region of Russia it is a very important story which should be developed in the future.

We now wait for the solution of an issue with the airport in Rostov-on-Don by our colleagues. If everything would be solved, we will come there and we implement the large project with participation of the western architects setting absolutely new standards in Rostov. We have launched and implement large projects in the Moscow area – in Shcherbinka and in Shchelkovo.

You tell a lot about regions and somehow you avoid Moscow. Why? After all for any developer the capital is the most interesting region?

– In Moscow, first of all, there is a very high level of competition, and secondly, very expensive platforms that leads to the situation that elite projects are implemented successfully, lifting up the prices, and projects of mass building have objective restrictions on entry. Plus difficult solutions of complex construction, because the city is rather difficult, with big exclusive impregnations, with a difficult transport situation and with essential system of encumbrances. We discuss large platforms of the capital, we want to find the project, of the similar scale as "Akademichesky", it is our old desire, I spoke about it more than once. I do not doubt that it would come true, but I would not speak about any particular location.

How do you estimate work of the Moscow building complex today?

– It became easier to cooperate. There is a feeling that the city defined priorities in many respects. Road construction develops correctly hat is important for any developer. There is an understanding of prospects of particular platforms as well. The situation considerably improved from the point of view of definiteness and competition in this market. For everybody it is not a secret that there was a period when three-four companies having good relations with municipal administration worked at the market. Now everything is solved on the basis of competition, but not at the level of arrangement. But capital market still remains very expensive, there are situations when, overpaying for a platform, the investor starts saving on quality, and it is very bad. It is very important that in the capital infrastructure projects have been successfully implemented recently, but there are still not enough examples of complex development of territories.

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