By George Powell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A key phase of Rio’s Porto Maravilha urbanization project gets underway on November 2nd with the start of the long-awaited demolition of the Perimetral highway. The removal of the elevated highway will open up a historic but long-neglected corner of central Rio’s business district, to be followed by new office developments, hotels, state-of-the-art apartments and leisure facilities.
The Porto Maravilha is an ambitious urban regeneration initiative that was central to Mayor Eduardo Paes’ policy for the city’s redevelopment ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. Without the transformation of the five million square meters of Rio’s port area it was feared that the downward spiral of decades of neglect could have permanently blighted not just the port, but Centro itself.
In bringing both commercial and residential development as well as new infrastructure to the area, the authorities’ determination to preserve Rio’s business district rather than let it slowly be drawn west as companies, including Petrobras, increasingly considered relocation to Barra, has saved it from terminal decline.
Besides the crumbling remains of a once-thriving port, the area is currently home to an estimated 32,000 people who, over recent decades have seen their neighborhood in decline with dilapidated buildings and malfunctioning sewage and drainage systems that caused health issues including outbreaks of dengue fever. The elevated Perimetral road, built in stages between 1950 and 1970 along the edge of Guanabara Bay, effectively condemned the area underneath to permanent grey, under which a once-thriving neighborhood became forgotten, economic activity grinding to a halt and property prices plummeting.
Porto Maravilha may have taken many years to get off the ground, but with a budget of R$8 billion, it will not only encourage urban revitalization but also stimulate both socio-economic and real estate development. The demolition of the road is a huge step towards that, and follows the opening of the MAR museum which kick-started the area’s transformation, already becoming a symbol of the area’s potential.
Alberto Silva is the president of CDURP, the Port Region Urban Development company managing the Porto Maravilha project, and responsible for the coordination between the public and private agencies developing the area. The company also oversaw the issuing of Certificate of additional construction potential bonds (Cepacs) designed to help encourage private investment with their flexibility.
“There are plenty of opportunities for investment”, he told The Rio Times. “Property prices within the Porto Maravilha will increase and, commercially, the area will see a huge boost as well with over seventy projects in the works, including the Trump Towers and a range of other commercial ventures aimed at reviving life in the Port.”
The development will also create an estimated 8,000 hotel rooms as part of the city’s push towards accommodating the thousands of visitors expected during 2016. Two hotels of 500 rooms in the Porto Olímpico project will be operated by Solace, while the conversion of a motel into the exclusive Le Paris five-star hotel is scheduled for completion next year.
While the bulk of the construction is set to be completed for the 2016 Olympic Games, construction and the area’s rejuvenation is expected to continue for some fifteen years later, offering an interesting long-term option for companies. The huge upheaval likely over the coming months means that, for the time being, it is likely to only attract the very brave.