Russian real estate developer Araz Agalarov
Extended post photos by: Timothy Post
In this piece, Timothy Post, an American living and working in the southern Russian region of Krasnodar Krai, talks about Agalarov Estates, an exclusive new development in Moscow.
If you do not live in Moscow, the name, Araz Agalarov (age 51), may not be familiar to you, but you will hear it more often very soon. Mr. Agalarov, a native of Baku, Azerbaijan, is a Moscow-based real estate developer and one of the hundred richest men in Russia. Agalarov has built a number of projects which, despite some initial skepticism about their financial viability, have all gone on to exceed expectations. Agalarov's first major project in Moscow was a super high-end shopping mall called Crocus City Mall.
Completed in 2002, many thought the idea of putting an elite mall along the outer ring road around Moscow was ill advised. Would wealthy Muscovites fight traffic to drive to a shopping mall to buy their Prada, Armani, Gucci? Mr. Agalarov thought so and it turns out he was correct.
Crocus City Mall has since spawned a well-known brand called "Crocus" which, like the Trump brand, has been extended to a number of other projects. Since 2002, Mr. Agalarov has built a couple of expo centers, a yacht club along the Moscow River, a hyper market, and a number of condominiums.
Tall pines planted at the Agalarov Estates Country Club
A few weeks ago I had the chance to check-out Mr. Agalarov's newest project, which is breathtaking in its ambition and scope. The project will easily give Mr. Trump's own Trump National a run for its money. The project, currently called Agalarov Estates Golf Club (which is about one third complete) will be a super elite golf and country club community.
To give you an idea of how exclusive this community will be, the "starter homes" will go for about $10 million U.S. dollars (not a typo) and the average home will be 10,000+ square feet. Even Moscow, the most expensive city in the world for expats, has seen nothing like this before. Here's a photo of one of the homes being built:
A new home in Agalarov Estates
When you think of Agalarov Estates, think Hobe Sound or Ocean Reef but in Moscow. Instead of palm trees lining the grand drive to the clubhouse, Mr. Agalarov has planted hundreds of fifty foot tall soaring pine trees stripped of their branches until the highest ten feet. The trees were transplanted from special nurseries and are now anchored by support wires, with six wires per tree.
This community, sitting on more than 300 hectares (2.6 acres per hectare), will truly be a luxury playground for the world's power elite. There will be a championship 18-hole golf course designed by Cal Olsen Golf Architecture. Mr. Olsen may not be a household name outside of golfing circles, but he has proven to be an excellent partner for the Agalarov development team. One member of the development team, Emil Veliev (Assistant to President) explained to me that while some big name golf architects might fly in now and then to dictate a few cosmetic changes, Mr. Olsen has been involved on a personal level in every aspect of the course design.
The front nine should be ready for play in the summer of 2008 while the back nine is currently being designed. Stephen Alexander, a native of Sydney, Australia, is the Golf Project Manager. It is obvious from looking at the course under construction that Mr. Alexander knows exactly how to translate Mr. Olsen's designs into reality.
In addition to golf, the private community will have a 60,000 square foot clubhouse with ballroom, pro shop, wrap around patio, cart barn, catering facilities, indoor driving range with ball launch monitor, cigar bar, and - this being Russia - an indoor shooting range.
There will be a full-service training and practice facility with a 350 meter-long (1,148 feet) driving range, a short game area with sand traps, a practice putting green, and a Ladies Putting Club much like the one which uses the "Himalayas Putting Course" at St. Andrews in Scotland.
The club has already built a full-service fitness & tennis club with red clay tennis courts, spa, fitness center, and indoor astro-turf playing field. A beach club on a large lake is nearing construction. There will be a wading pool for kids, 12 cabanas, and soft sand beach. For the more adventurous, there will be an equestrian center with riding paths throughout the property. For guests of residents, there is a fifty room exclusive hotel.
The project would be spectacular anywhere in the world but this being Moscow it is also unprecedented. While a number of oligarchs are building their own golf courses around Moscow, none has the scope and vision of Agalarov Estates. No expense has been spared. Actually, there really isn't a hard budget. There doesn't need to be based on the price of the houses.
One expense which was not spared but has often been overlooked by other developers recently in Russia is landscaping. Often landscaping is an after thought and sometimes the aesthetics of a development are sacrificed to save money on construction (e.g. all the mature trees are cut down to make it easier for the heavy equipment to do its job). The person is charge of landscaping the whole community is Mike Clarke who worked with the Agalarov Group on doing the indoor landscaping of their mall and expo centers.
As we drove through the residential section of the community, Mr. Olsen pointed out a landscaping detail which I would have otherwise missed. Namely, all the homes have been individually graded. Some are higher than grade and some are lower. While seemingly insignificant, this landscaping detail is crucial. Too often in Russian residential developments the houses are built all on the same grade in a field. The result is visually unappealing. It gives the developments a feeling of cheapness. Agalarov Estates will hopefully encourage other developers in Russia to understand the importance of this landscaping detail.
I am glad to have had the chance to get a first-hand look at such a project. While we are aiming to build something along the lines of Agalarov Estates in Krasnodar, there is no way we will even begin to approach the level of this project. I would expect that the project will be 100% complete by the summer of 2009 and I have no doubt that all the houses will have been bought long before that time by Russia's elite.
I think even Donald Trump would be impressed!
Timothy Post, a native of Boston, Massachussets and an MBA graduate of Babson College, is a real estate developer in Krasnodar Krai. You can read the original post on Tim's blog, Inside Krasnodar. If you have more questions about doing business in Krasnodar, you can email him at email@example.com.