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A gift to the town

6 September 2018

In the town of Okha, 849 kilometres from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, there is not a single shopping centre. «And why should there be?» any investor might think. On 1 January 2018, there were 20,715 people living in Okha — and one of them decided that, in fact, a shopping and leisure centre would be just the ticket.

Sergey Krylov had spent most of his life working for various companies in Okha, but in 2010, he started his own business, working as a builder and decorator. «We started small: won a few contracts, earned a bit of money, invested in equipment and materials, and carried on working — until this programme, Far Eastern Hectare, appeared», Sergey tells us.

On 1 June 2016, the Far Eastern Hectare programme, a Russian initiative offering the chance to obtain a plot of land in the Russian Far East of up to one hectare — for free — was launched. The programme has been running for just over two years now, during which 120,000 people from all over Russia have exercised their right to land. They have come up with all sorts of different ideas about what to do with it...

He was initially sceptical about the state initiative, but after a few months, he visited the programme’s website and saw that not a single application had been made for land in Okha: absolutely nobody was interested in the town. Then, Sergey resolved to act: he registered, sent off the paperwork via his council one-stop shop, «to avoid dealing with bureaucrats as much as possible», and by the end of October 2016, he was the proud owner of a Far Eastern hectare. By May 2017, construction of a shopping and leisure centre on the site was already underway.

Sergey Krylov’s shopping and leisure centre will be the only one in Okha

«What you have to understand is that Okha is a small town that people are leaving in droves. By now, several generations of children have grown up in Okha who have never been to the cinema and don’t even know what a cinema is», says Sergey sadly. «Your average investor wouldn’t invest in this town. You’re not going to make a lot of money, but we in Okha had been tossing around the idea of building a shopping and leisure centre, because we actually live here. I’d call it a social project. A gift to the town, if you like.»

The town is short of places where people can simply meet, sit with their friends, or play with their children, and Sakhalin’s harsh climate means a stroll in the fresh air is not always the most appealing prospect. A 1,400m 2 shopping and leisure centre should fill this gap.

According to Sergey, the building is already almost 90% completed, and it’s now the finishing touches that are underway. The centre is due to open in autumn 2018. The ground floor will house retail outlets, while the first floor will be given over to children’s entertainment. This is how Sergey describes his vision for the centre: «There will be a few little shops, perhaps some small stalls with stuff for children, a pet shop. There’ll be a playground and some cafés. Somewhere where you can go and just sit and have a break, like we said.»

Sergey estimates that RUB 50–70 million have been invested in the project, both his own capital and contributions from his partners. «In all honesty, I haven’t totted up how much people have invested so far. I don’t want to jinx it. Let’s get the project launched and the centre open first, and then we’ll work out the final figure», he says.

Sadly, though, there will be no cinema. «I’m not a serious enough entrepreneur to invest money in a cinema», says Sergey apologetically. «If the regional or municipal authorities helped me — a sort of socio-commercial partnership — then the project might get off the ground. A modern cinema, with decent sound and image quality», he adds, a dreamy look in his eye..

Source: EEF 2018 Official Magazine

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