Traditionally known as the grandest and most expensive part of St. Petersburg, Russia, the Golden Triangle, with its romantic canal and riverside setting rich in ornate palaces and mansions from its imperial past, has long been a property hot spot.
Many urban bohemians and foreigners as well as Muscovites and oligarchs from oil- and gas-producing regions of Russia aspire to buy real estate here, said Ekaterina Nemchenko, head of the residential department at Knight Frank in St. Petersburg.
However, the market has been impacted by the international sanctions that were imposed during the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. Overseas buyers are more cautious about buying in Russia, agents said, although there are no restrictions on investors from countries imposing the sanctions investing in homes in the country apart from areas near its borders.
Due to a decline in the Russian ruble, demand for investment properties from buyers in regions within the Russian Federation has slightly increased in the first half of this year compared to the first half of last year, Ms. Nemchenko said.
The weakening of the Russian ruble has created a decline in the cost of properties priced in foreign currency, particularly in U.S. dollars and euros, Ms. Nemchenko explained. “Because some of the buyers hold part of their funds in foreign currency, the purchase of homes in Russia has become more affordable compared to the same period a year ago.”
Pavel Savinykh, of Engel & Volkers in St. Petersburg, said that prices for properties in the Golden Triangle with desirable views have grown by 20% to 25% since 2014. “There is demand for around 100 square meter homes with one and two bedrooms that have views of water and iconic buildings. Prices can start from RUB343,304 (US$5,103) per square meter..”
This triangular-shaped neighborhood is part of the Admiralteysky District, a central location bordered by rivers and canals facing the Baltic Sea.
The Neva River creates its east and north boundaries while the Fontanka River forms its western border.
Its southern edge is Nevsky Prospect, the main street in the city where there are notable shopping destinations and cultural attractions.
The Golden Triangle has apartment blocks, former palaces and grand mansion houses, some of which overlook the water. There is an abundance of baroque and neoclassical 18th and 19th-century stone buildings as well as more mundane-looking buildings.
Newly built buildings are non-existent, Ms. Nemchenko said. “No new buildings have been built in the Golden Triangle over the past 10 years. It’s mostly restored or renovated homes.”
The city has undergone a construction boom of recent decades, but this area still has many rundown buildings. The most dilapidated properties tend to be communal apartments, or kommunalka, which are large, subdivided apartments once owned by the nobility where several families live and share facilities.
A type of housing created during the Soviet era, these ripe-for-renovation properties are not easy to buy because a developer would need to negotiate with each of the residents if they wanted to purchase the property.
The most in-demand properties with foreigners previously were apartments on the river embankments, Ms. Nemchenko said. “This is because they have beautiful views and proximity to the different monuments and parks.
"Malaya Konyushennaya Street and Shvedskiy Lane were also popular because they are pedestrian-only streets.”
The main drawback to living in the Golden Triangle, agents said, is that there is not enough off-street parking for the amount of housing. Additionally, some prime home buyers are put off by the lack of the properties in private surroundings, which, Ms. Nemchenko said, is an integral part of elite housing in Russia.
The Kusheleva-Bezborodko Museum is only new residential project in the area at the moment, according to Ms. Nemchenko. The state-owned building has been renovated and feature well-preserved interiors.
As the area has quite a diverse range of housing types, prices vary from street to street and property to property.
Prices start from as little as RUB114,568 (US$1,702) per square meter and go up to RUB1,795,250 ($26,673) per square meter, according to Mr. Savinykh. He said that the most expensive homes sell from between RUB611,149 (US$9,081) per square meter and RUB763,936 (US$11,352) per square meter.
The Admiralteisky area only has 6% of the prime flats in the city, according to the 2017 Knight Frank St Petersburg Prime Residential Real Estate Market Report.
A property sold for a record-breaking price of RUB259,330,389 (US$3.8 million) last year, according to Mr. Savinykh, showing that prices are still quite affordable compared with other European cities.
The most expensive home on the market at the moment is an apartment on Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street. The 190-square-meter property has refurbished interiors and is on the market for RUB343,231,398 (US$5.1 million), or around RUB1,792,430 (US$26,635) per square meter.
In the first half of this year, there were 16 apartments on sale, according to Knight Frank. A total of three flats were sold in first half of 2018 in the Golden Triangle.
What Makes it Unique
Known as the palace quarter, the Golden Triangle was where most of the nobility in St. Petersburg used to live before the Russian Revolution in 1917.
It has a timeless, opulent feel, with its picturesque and serene waterways and treasure trove of European-style architecture and highly ornate palaces and museums.
This district of St. Petersburg beats all records in terms of the number of worldwide known historical places, Ms. Nemchenko said.
“Most of the iconic cultural and recreational facilities are concentrated here,” she said.
Its opulent architecture and romantic quays and bridges are classically beautiful, Mr. Savinykh added.
High-end shopping can be found on Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street, where there are boutiques by Italian fashion brand Brunello Cucinelli, a ready-to-wear and made-to-measure Italian clothing brand Kiton, Prada, French-Swiss watchmaker Tourbillon and Gucci, as well as a design gallery by the high-end kitchen company Bulthaup.
Nevsky Prospekt has a Comme des Garcons outlet, a boutique by the Ukrainian-born fashion designer Tatyana Parfionova; Meldes, a coat designer and producer; and Chanel and Louis Vuitton boutiques.
The area has tree-lined streets and a wealth of formal green spaces. There is the Summer Garden, an ornate garden where balls were held by the nobility, which includes the Mikhailovsky Garden, a landscaped park, and Mars Field, a nine-acre park with formal gardens.
A hot spot for Russian art and culture, the Arts Square is home to the State Russian Museum; the Mikhailovsky Theatre; the Bolshoi Zal, the large concert hall of the Saint Petersburg Philharmonia; and the Statue of Pushkin.
The world-famous State Hermitage Museum on the grand Palace Square is full of treasures and is part of the Winter Palace, the official residence of the Russian monarchs. Faberge Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of Faberge eggs, and the Church of the Savior on Blood are cultural highlights.
At the Literary Cafe Russian, dishes are served in the surroundings that have hosted the likes of Alexander Pushkin and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Em offers modern haute cuisine in atmospheric surroundings, while the hip five-star hotel chain W St.Petersburg has an outpost here with a restaurant featuring a menu overseen by the renowned French chef Alain Ducasse.
Often referred to as Petri Schule, Saint Peter’s School is a highly-regarded German secondary school and one of the oldest educational institution in the city.
Who Lives There
Most residents are from St. Petersburg. There are foreign residents, many of which are from Germany, Italy and the U.S., who bought properties about 20 to 25 years ago when prices were low, Mr. Savinykh said.
The area attracts people from a range of different industries. There are, however, a lot of people who are in the culture sectors, such as music, opera, theater and cinema, Mr. Savinykh said. “St. Petersburg is known as the culture capital of Europe.”
Fewer rich people live here now, as they tend to buy new flats in the Tauride Palace and Garden area and the Krestovsky and Kamenny islands now, Ms. Nemchenko said. “If they buy a flat in the Golden Triangle, they usually rent it out.”
It is not however popular with buy-to-let investors because rents are so low at the moment, Mr. Savinykh said.
This area has long attracted the artistic set. The National Pushkin Museum on 12 Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki houses the last apartment of Alexander Pushkin. Now known as the Memorial Apartment, the poet lived in the property from 1836 until his death in 1837.
Today, the Russian and Soviet actor and singer Mikhail Boyarsky is said to live in the Golden Triangle, according to Ms. Nemchenko.
Demand for properties at the prime of the market in St. Petersburg is growing. In the first half of this year, 21,800 square meters of elite housing was sold, which is 4% higher than the first half year of 2017, according to Knight Frank.
The Golden Triangle area will be undergoing improvements over the coming year. There are plans for the renovation of facades of the historical buildings and for the creation of paid parking zones, according to Mr. Savinykh.
As there are no new developments in the pipeline, and still a fairly small supply of high-end properties, Ms. Nemchenko reckons there won’t be much change in the market over the next year.