How the businessman changed architecture of Dnipro
How the complex of buildings on Ekaterinoslavskii Boulevard became the unique one
Quarters with modern development in the center of Dnipro is proudly presented to the visitors of once closed industrial city. There is even a special route for foreigners and official delegations: from Yekaterinoslavskii boulevard to “Menora” through the “Most-City”. The majority of these good-looking buildings was designed by the architect Olexandr Dolnik and built by Alef Estate, Vadim Ermolaev’s company. The man, who greatly influenced the way how the center of Dnipro looks like now, doesn’t give interviews and lives under the radar. However 49-years-old Ermolaev didn’t lose interest in this business even after almost two decades from the time he began being engaged in developing. Not only he is passionate about new projects, he also takes control over each and every detail of the existing objects.
Photo: At the opening “Most-City” was the biggest shopping and entertainment center in Ukraine
In 1990’s Vadim Ermolaev made a fortune dealing alcohol, household chemicals and consumer goods. By the beginning of 2000s, he made it on from import distributor to manufacturer – he owned some large-scale-production and winery, while investing in the sidelines to the main business. In the conversation with Forbes one of the former partners of Ermolaev called him a born marketer who sees the opportunities on the market well and uses them without delay. Notwithstanding, then, in the early 2000s, it was surprising to find out that Alef company was going to engage in commercial real estate development. Indeed, no one believed in Ermolaev’s success in this difficult and cost-intensive for him field.
In order to understand how the construction business functions, perfect the technology, put a team together and assign the contract to subcontractors, they built 2 small business buildings on Karl Marks avenue and Pushkin street. “It was a lead-in before truly serious projects. We had built 2 objects, then sold them. But we all were training a lot on them, especially Ermolaev. He doesn’t possess any specific education; however, he has enormously grown as a civil engineer. He used to come to the construction on weekends; he was studying drawings trying to understand at least something. In a few years he knew oats in drawings; Ermolaev saw all the mistakes and could handicap any construction site supervisor. A pure original!” – tells Olexandr Syrota, Alef Estate General Manager, who works in the company since the very beginning.
Photo: Yekaterinoslavskii boulevard became the “place of force” for the people of Dnipro
In each of the objects there was a human factor apart from land issues and building permits – the housemates of run-down separate houses and the owners of garages which were on the site of future construction. The majority agreed to get compensation and move out, but there were also those who furiously fought with the developer. In the most difficult cases with “rebels” Ermolaev used his talent of negotiator.
“In any of the conflicts he prefers win-win bargaining, when both sides are satisfied with the result. Thereat he doesn’t back up, and if he’s got a goal – there is 99% that it will be achieved”, — a member of the market characterizes the developer.
Photo: “Cascade-Plaza” – one of the main projects by Olexandr Dolnikov
The real ambition in the building of Vadim Ermolaev became clear only in 2004 when the “Novyi Center” began operating. It was the first big shopping and entertainment center in Dnipro and the first experience of residential area building for Alef Estate. The innovative at the time large shopping mall has also changed traffic environment and adjoining quarters. Step by step they began becoming more refined. However, the further developer’s plans were far more colossal.
“Ermolaev had already known how the whole quarter — Hlinka and Kharkivska streets and ramp from the Novyi bridge- had to look like even before the beginning of the “Novyi Center” construction. He wasn’t interested in infill, microdisctrits only. The project fleshed out already in the course of the matter, but the general vision was formed already in the early 2000s. At the same time, everyone to whom we talked about our plans, assured us that we wouldn’t succeed and there would be no trade there”, — recalls Olexandr Syrota.
You need to understand that in the described area before “Aleph» there were not just trade – life. “Nalyvayki» (drinking establishments. – Trans.), chebureks-house, brothels and communal apartments in one-two-story buildings of barrack type with broken glasses — in the very heart of the million city. Before they start building, they had to evacuate 320 families from the slums, clear the site of shabby houses and make a new traffic intersection at the ramp from the Novyi bridge.
In 2006 at this very place «Most-City» appeared, it is the largest shopping and entertainment center in the country at the time of commissioning. Ermolaev, who has a soft spot for beautiful dates, decided to coincide the opening of the city with the City Day, which is celebrated in Dnipro in early September. According to the idea, «Most-City» was to be a gift to the city on the 230th anniversary. In the last 2 weeks before the gala day, 2,500 people worked at the site at the same time, the building was surrounded with scaffolds, and the city authorities were not sure until the last moment whether to include the opening of the complex in the program of the City Day. However, upon the appointed day, the mayor of the city had cut a red tape — and the center of Dnipro changed forever.
Within a short time «Most-City» became a real place of force in the industrial metropolis, where before, in fact, there were no public spaces. The SEC received the State Prize in the field of architecture, a lot of retail awards, it was also recognized as the best in different nominations, but what is the most important, that it launched the process of the formation of urban culture in Dnipro. «Most-City» very quickly and smoothly became the main location for shopping, recreation and business meetings. Somehow by default it became natural to spend time there. The complex is a little more than 10 years old, but it seems that it has been here forever — a huge number of citizens have the most important stages in life associated with it. My example is generally textbook: during my student years I was hanging out here with friends, I met girls, and now I rent area for my shop», — says Grygorii Pavlov, Dnipro businessman.
Photo: Businessman Vadim Ermolaev
Vadim Ermolaev himself, according to him, in the design of the SEC was driven by simple but clear ambitions. “»I live in this city. My children live in this city. I want it to be a beautiful city”.
A year later a 14-story «Prisma» grew up opposite to «Most-City». The first floor of the business center is a revenue house of the late XIX century. The idea not to wreck the building, which isn’t of historical value, but to renew the facade and build it into a modern construction of glass and concrete, came to Ermolaev while walking with the architect Olexandr Dolnik. Olexandr Dolnik is probably one of the most famous architects in Dnipro, he reinterpreted modern European architecture and created original Ukrainian projects. Together with another local architect Ihor Zadoya they are responsible for designing the most successful objects of Alef Estate.
“Dolnik’s style was characterized by healthy realism, clarity and stringency. Zadoya is a great exterior and interior designer, who knows how to make something really beautiful. So that Ermolaev’s ideas fell on grateful soil. Despite the fact that the investor sometimes argued himself hoarse with architects, as a result of these disputes and the struggle of opposites unique objects were born”, — says Olexandr Syrota.
Ekaterinoslavskii Boulevard and the surrounding complex of buildings are really unique. Before Ermolaev no one didn’t even think about building anything here — developers were frightened off by unstable soil, the main catch basin under the ground and proximity to the buildings of historical value. For decades a few hectares of land in the very heart of the city literally stood in ruins. “Ermolaev loves complicated, impossible tasks. Apparently, it is they which awaken excitement in him. He is a very strict leader — explosive, quick-tempered. But it’s very interesting with him, because all the spent nerves are compensated by the drive and the feeling that you have achieved a result that seemed impossible”, — recalls one of the former employees of Alef Estate.
Today, where used to be a swamp and subsidence of soils – now is a cozy pedestrian zone surrounded by a strict Bosphorus business center and a futuristic shopping and entertainment center «Cascade-Plaza», which seems to frame the climb to one of the Ekaterinoslav hills. People say that on weekends you can easily bump into Vadim Ermolaev strolling around here.
The millionaire, who controls more than 30 different business lines, likes developing the most. Even now he carefully goes into the smallest details.
“From the trips abroad, he brings hundreds of pictures, and they aren’t photographs of attractions.» Interiors, nodes, communications in hotels and shopping centers — Ermolaev is interested in everything! He is an absolute perfectionist and demands the same from his team. But if you get even a small piece of his crazy energy once, you will never be able to live without it anymore, «- says Syrota.
A couple years ago, on his own jubilee celebration, Vadim Ermolaev said about the development business: “This is a business that puts all of my ideas and fantasies into real life”.
Considering that in an incomplete two decades the businessman’s ideas and fantasies really transformed the architectural look of his native city so we can be happy for Dnipro.