Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

The future starts today

How Arctic cities create a comfortable urban environment

27 september 2022

27.09.2022 // The Arctic is a macro-region with huge potential for economic growth. However, it must not be forgotten that all growth comes primarily from people. For them to want to work in the high latitudes, there have to be cities to live in. And those cities that already existed offered a high-quality urban environment. This is why the improvement of the Arctic is now one of the most critical issues that is being addressed not only at the regional but also at the federal level.

Russia's Arctic zone is the most urbanised part of the country, with over 80% of the population concentrated in cities. However, only half of them—20 out of 44—were rated as liveable cities according to the Urban Environment Quality Index in 2020. About half of Polar residents cite the poor quality of the urban environment as a possible reason for changing their place of residence.

To change the situation, the Russian government has approved the Unified Action Plan to Implement the Foundations of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic and the Strategy for Developing the Russian Arctic Zone and Ensuring National Security until 2035. The main focus of these documents is on improving the quality of life of people in the Arctic, a priority of government policy in the macro-region. And shaping a comfortable urban environment is one of the key determinants of quality of life.

To ensure that cities in the Arctic region change for the better, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic and the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation are developing an 'Arctic standard'—a standard for developing the urban environment and improving the public and courtyard spaces of Arctic settlements. At the end of 2021, the Arctic Settlement Design Code, a set of documents regulating the appearance of cities in the Arctic, including standards for façade decoration, lighting, navigation and advertising and information structures, was developed. This rulebook takes into account the specifics of northern areas—extremely low temperatures, plenty of snow, strong winds, blizzards, blizzards and fog.

In addition, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic is holding a competition for the best landscaping practices in the Arctic zone. And best practices can be downloaded from the online platform 'Library of practices in the development and improvement of the Arctic settlement environment.' It showcases the best architectural planning and state-of-the-art technology in northern construction in areas such as urban planning, housing, landscaping, engineering solutions, the environment, social facilities and transport.

The Arctic regions have not been idle either. They are looking for ways to solve the problem by involving companies interested in developing the Arctic. In Norilsk, for example, a comprehensive plan for the socio-economic development of the city has been approved, under which RUB 120 bn will be allocated for its renewal and improvement by 2035. It is recognised as a pilot project for the development of support settlements in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation.

'The main activities will be implemented in the coming years. In total, according to the plan, more than 70 modern apartment buildings, two kindergartens, a school and a polyclinic are planned for construction in Norilsk, and an overhaul of a building to house a social service centre for citizens. More than 40 dilapidated houses will also be demolished and three residential buildings of historical value in the city centre will be reconstructed,' tells the press service of the Russian government.

There are ambitious plans to create a comfortable urban environment in the Murmansk Region. 'This year, we have planned to improve the territory of 232 apartment buildings, 12 public areas and install 69 children's and sports playgrounds,' regional governor Andrey Chibis said on 5 September.

Next year, the regional government will start implementing two projects that are winners of the All-Russian Competition for Small Towns and Historic Settlements.

A 'Mineral Quay and Fairytale Forest' will appear in Olenegorsk. A promenade with a beach, pavilion and playground will be dedicated to the riches of the Kola Peninsula's subsoil. And the fairytale forest, which will include a square with a stage, the Morozko mansion, a pier, a gazebo hut and an obstacle course, will be stylised as a famous Soviet film fairytale.

In Kovdor, a 'Kovdor Magnet' will be created: a mini-scene and amphitheatre, a skate-spot, bicycle paths, pergolas and swings will be built in the heart of the city, on Lenin Square. There will be 'glowing' stones and a 'lamp fountain' that will cool the air with a misty spray in summer and turn into a large heater in winter.

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