SOCHI, Russia, Sept 22, 2007 (AFP) - Russian developers outlined plans on Saturday for a 350-hectare artificial island in the shape of Russia to be built off the Black Sea coast near the future Olympic venue Sochi.

Federation Island is expected to house around 25,000 people in apartments and villas and is to be completed in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, said its designer, Dutch architect Erick van Egeraat.

It will have two marinas, three religious centres, roads, parkland and artificial rivers, the latter designed to mimic some of the major rivers of Russia.

"Building something in existing houses, within existing agreements is harder than building something new," van Egeraat said as he outlined the project on the sidelines of a weekend economic forum.

The project will cost around 6.2 billion dollars (4.4 billion euros) and is to be located along the coastline near to where many Olympic complexes are also planned.

Construction is due to start next year and developers M-Industry, based in Saint Petersburg, said the project had all the funding in place.

An official from the Krasnodar regional administration where Sochi is located, Yury Rysin, described it as "a unique project for our country."

"It's a great idea that will hopefully be built," he said.

The Russian state has undertaken to spend billions of dollars (euros) in upgrading the region's ageing Soviet-era infrastructure, including new roads and telecommunications.

Property prices in Sochi have already risen by up to 40 percent since the city won the right earlier this year to host the Winter Olympics, while the region is attracting interest from international developers and hoteliers.


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