Police said around 20 people gathered at the site of a 19th-century building that is being demolished by a construction company hired by film director Nikita Mikhalkov, who is also a prominent supporter of president-elect Vladimir Putin.
Opponents of the project say the building cannot be demolished because it is next to an architectural monument, while the construction company responsible for the project says the city has given it the go-ahead.
Mikhalkov's company, which owns the property, plans to build a seven-story hotel on the site. Preservationists have been in conflict with the city and those behind the project since 2008.
On Wednesday, prominent opposition figures, including environmental activist Yevgenia Chirikova and Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin, became involved in a standoff with police at the site. Mitrokhin said he had not been shown documents certifying that construction company TSZh Vektor had permission to remove waste materials from the site, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Earlier in the day, police said the developer presented documents proving it had permission to perform the work.
During discussions between the police and demonstrators, a crane continued to remove waste materials, dropping the trash into a dumpster "right over the heads" of protestors.