By Oliver Bazely, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – On June 18th the Porto Maravilha (Wonderful Port) project took a step nearer completion, as the city council sanctioned a bill introducing tax relief on municipal developments in the port district. The move was the latest in a series of bills aimed at clearing the way for the major urban regeneration plan, expected to be finished in time for the 2016 Olympics.
The project aims to redevelop large areas of the port district for residential and commercial purpose, including the landmark Pier Mauá, which will become the focal point of a major new leisure complex.
The plan encompasses the Santo Cristo, Gamboa and Saúde neighborhoods, as well as parts of São Cristóvão, Centro and Cidade Nova. Historically, these districts have been integral to Rio’s development, witnessing the birth of both choro and samba music, as well as construction of the city’s first skyscraper.
Nowadays, the port region is more dilapidated, although its facilities still serve the many thousands of cruise passengers that dock in the city each year. It has been suggested that one reason for the port’s decline is the effective isolation caused by the ‘Perimitral’ raised highway, and accordingly, there are proposals to demolish part of this structure in the future.
The redevelopment of the port district has been tabled for over 30 years, but bureaucratic impasses and financial constraints have prevented the project from ever getting off the ground. By working together in recent years, the Federal, State and Municipal Governments are finally seeing their plans come to fruition.
The first phase of the project includes the renewal of the Praça Mauá and the Mauá Pier, in addition to the renewal of one million square meters of existing infrastructure, and potentially the development of a further five million. Phase One will also see pavements, parks and squares renovated, as well as the planting of trees and the restoration of native mangrove species.
To attract visitors to the district, the city is also planning to build an aquarium, an art gallery and the futuristic ‘Museum of Tomorrow’. The recent pacification of Morro da Provodência, and the establishment of a Police Pacification Unit were also carried out under the “Porto Maravilha” banner.
The ambitions of Phase Two of the project are more wide-reaching, designed to raise the standard of living for current residents of the port district. Aims include the installation of new sewage networks, in addition to improvements in water, electricity, telephone and piped gas infrastructure, and traffic flow in the district will also be completely reorganized as tunnels, on-ramps, bike lanes and bus stops are constructed. An expansion of the existing Mount Provodência rail tunnel to include road traffic will further improve the current traffic situation.
When developing the project, planners looked to both Barcelona and Buenos Aires for inspiration. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics are well known to have sparked a major phase of urban regeneration in the city, which has left a positive and lasting legacy. Barcelona has since become one the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and amidst predictions in increase visitors to South America, Rio is no-doubt hoping to reinforce its international profile.
Correction: August 5, 2010
This article was first published on July 6th with the wrong spelling of “Porto Maravilha”.