Twenty years ago the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was starting to break up into sixteen successor states ("the Union of Fewer and Fewer Republics"), which made for exciting times. One immediate consequence of the collapse of the USSR was that the other nations of the world had to very quickly set up diplomatic premises in the newly independent states, which were hyper-eager to receive them, since a foreign diplomatic presence would help to solidify their new status.
Problem was, almost all the available office properties back then were the ones being vacated by Soviet government agencies or the Soviet Communist Party. That was not good, since a former KGB headquarters would make a poor U.S. Embassy, for reasons of symbolism as well as practical considerations about eavesdropping devices. There would be bad ju-ju if our diplomats worked in buildings where dissidents had been tortured or killed.
In Kyiv, the solution was to acquire the former headquarters of the Komsomol - the Communist Party Youth League - as a stop-gap solution until a larger and more suitable place could be found. I remember everyone figured that we would move into a new embassy office building in two or three years, five years at the outside.
Today, after twenty years in the old Komsomol building, the U.S. mission finally moved into that new embassy compound.
United States Dedicates New Embassy Compound in Kyiv, Ukraine:
Following the 20th Anniversary of American-Ukrainian diplomatic relations celebrated on January 20, U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft dedicated the new embassy facility in Kyiv today. Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Volodomyr Lytvyn; Foreign Minister, Kostyantyn Gryshchenko; as well as Under Secretary for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy; Deputy Chief of Mission, Eric Schultz; and Deputy Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), Heather Townsend participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.By the way, the new compound in Kyiv was built on the site of what had formerly been a huge junkyard. No bad ju-ju there.
Occupying a 10-acre site in the capital city of Kyiv, the multi-building complex is a platform for increased U.S. interaction with the Ukrainian people. The embassy’s permanent art collection celebrates the exchange of artistic expression between the United States and Ukraine through work by contemporary Ukrainian, American, and regional artists, curated by OBO’s Office of Art in Embassies.
The new embassy incorporates numerous sustainable features, most notably advances in engineering design to maximize efficiency and minimize energy use, a green roof system, and rain gardens which pre-treat stormwater before it is infiltrated on-site. The compound is registered with the Green Building Certification Institute and is entering the formal review process; it is the first LEED® registered project in Ukraine. B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Ala., constructed the project, which was designed by Page Southerland Page of Arlington, Va. The $247 million project generated hundreds of jobs in both the United States and Ukraine.
Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, OBO has completed 88 new diplomatic facilities and has moved more than 27,000 people into safe, secure, and functional facilities. OBO has an additional 41 projects in design or construction.