London's Shard eclipsed as Moscow's Mercury Tower becomes Europe's tallest skyscraper


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The Independent Culture

Mercury City, the tower Russian retail billionaire Igor Kesaev is building in Moscow's new financial district, overtook the Shard in London as Europe's tallest skyscraper.

The tower reached its full height of 339 meters (1,112 feet), 29 meters more than the Shard, Kesaev's Mercury Development said Thursday, citing Hamburg, Germany-based researcher Emporis. The 70-story skyscraper, designed by U.S. architect Frank Williams, who died in 2010, and Russia's Mikhail Posokhin, is be completed in the first quarter next year.

"When I first came to New York in 1991 and saw the Chrysler building and the Citibank one, I thought that such kind of skyscrapers should appear in Moscow," Kesaev said at a press conference in the Russian capital Thursday. "Now, 20 years later, this dream has come true."

Kesaev, who made his $1.8 billion fortune in wholesale tobacco and food retailing, was among a handful of tycoons to start building skyscrapers in Moscow City, the capital's emerging financial district. Not all reached fruition.

Billionaire Chalva Tchigirinsky scrapped a plan to build a 612-meter Norman Foster designed skyscraper after the onset of the global financial crisis. Sergei Polonsky, who built Federation Tower in Moscow City, lost his projects to banks as they were pledged as loan collateral.

Investment in the project totaled $1 billion, Kesaev said. The tower has about 90,000 square meters (970,000 square feet) of office space and 20,000 square meters of apartments, according to the developer's website.

"There will definitely be good demand for offices in such a prestigious location as Moscow City," said Nikola Obajdin, head of office property at Knight Frank in Moscow. "The rental price should be at a market level of about $800 to $900 per square meter a year, but on this stage of construction tenants expect it to be about $700."

Most demand for apartments comes from speculative investors and there's a large supply of units in Moscow City from other developers, according to Knight Frank. The starting price for apartments in Mercury City is $11,100 a square meter, according to its website.

"It may take Mercury three to four years to sell out the apartments," said Olga Tarakanova, head of city sales at Knight Frank. "Wealthy individuals who bought apartments in Moscow City several years ago are offering them for sale now."

Developers such as Capital Group, owned by Vladislav Doronin, are offering apartments in early-stage skyscrapers in Moscow City for as little as $6,500 a square meter, according to Knight Frank.