The face of Moscow is changing at a blinding pace: Parks are being redesigned, trees are being planted, and a network of sidewalks is being created. What has prompted this surge of activity? Experts claim world trends in tourism are behind the initiative.

In a few days, Nikolskaya Street, which leads to the Kremlin, will become a pedestrian sidewalk. Construction work is going on around the clock, as new granite tiles are being laid. Once this has been completed, new streetlights, benches and tourist signs will be put in place.

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin stated in late July that, last year, the city saw a record number of tourists, with five million people visiting the Russian capital. Experts predict that the figure will increase by another 500,000 visitors this year. The city’s infrastructure must change if it is to be able to handle such a massive influx of guests.

In May, the Moscow mayor has already announced a full-scale program to create pedestrian areas and plant greenery. By this fall, thirty new pedestrian areas will appear: Asphalt will be replaced by granite tiles and tourist signs will be put up. After reconstruction, all of these routes will make up an extensive pedestrian network.

Twenty neglected mini-parks on the Garden Ring area are also being planted with greenery. The new tourist network, according to Sobyanin, will be under the jurisdiction of the city’s Department of Culture—which means it will be protected against commercial development.

Architecture expert Yelena Gonsales believes changes to the urban environment are a world trend that Russia has ignored for a long time and cannot afford to ignore any longer. The new look of the city will make it more attractive for investments, according to the expert.

“It’s not just the streets that will change; people’s behavior will change as well. Production facilities are moving out of the city and services are becoming the main industry. The new people will want to and have the opportunity to walk on the streets, drop by at cafés, shop and meet with friends. They need something more than well-kept streets,” says Gonsales. “Façades need a facelift and monuments must be restored. After all, you are not going to walk down a pretty pathway if there is nothing else around.”

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