By Blake Sherman, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Hyatt Hotels Corporation is developing 45,000 square meters of Avenida Lucio Costa, which will include several high-rise buildings at the entrance of the Barra Praia da Reserva (Beach Reserve). The development was sparked by the coming Olympics in 2016 and remains controversial as the city presses to accommodate the global event.
The land was previously protected under the umbrella of Environmental Preservation Area (APA) Marapend until 2005. However, that same year Rio de Janeiro City Council approved a bill to remove the land from the hands of the APA and allow for development.
The bill doubled the allowance of build-able area while still protecting the untouched areas. Rio’s previous Mayor, Cesar Maia, took the issue to court but it was deemed constitutional.
Current Mayor, Eduardo Paes, is taking a different approach and supports the construction the hotel property and the Olympic golf course near the beach of the Barra reserve.
Mayor Paes told to O Globo: “It was not me who approved the law that way. The problem is that the terrain was much appreciated and we would have a huge cost to expropriate it. Not to mention that there was already a project approved [for a] resort in that area.”
The 2016 Olympic legacy continues to build strong opinions from all sides, and for many the overtaking of Praia da Reserva is hurting the city more than helping it. American expatriate and video producer for Tchau For Now Productions, Mark Lassise said: “I understand the desire to build a new golf course and create a grand stage for 2016 but the reality is the course at Itanhangá Golf Club is sufficient for the Olympics.”
“So, a resort with private beaches and traffic diversion in a city with traffic nightmares like no other doesn’t sound good for the residents in the West Zone and those that enjoy the beautiful clean beaches of Reserva, Prainha and Grumari.” Lassise shared.
Many Cariocas are supporting the protection and preservation of the Praia da Reserva as well. Twice in November over four hundred people have gathered at the beach in order to protest further construction and return the land to a protected area.
During the first protest, police used pepper-spray on some of the protesters. For the second gathering, protesters brought green crosses to represent the death of nature and white roses for the police.
Although controversial, the development of the Barra Praia da Reserva area may bring about positive changes in infrastructure. Even though many developers believe the land was already destroyed, they have a commitment to restore and maintain the native vegetation.
They are also meeting all environmental requirements asked of them and thus making the land more valuable than ever. The issue of the Barra Praia da Reserva is another step in Rio’s evolution for the 2016 Olympics and part of its effort to keep up with the cities rapid growth.
With residents of several favela communities in Rio de Janeiro facing resettlement and others having already been removed from their homes to make way for 2016 Olympic infrastructure development, there are many calls for better civil planning.