By Donitra Clemons, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Part of another building crumbled to the ground in Centro, stressing the dire need for attention for much of the aging infrastructure of Rio de Janeiro buildings. Around 8:45 AM on Tuesday, May 15th, a building belonging to the Bola Preta Association (Cordão da Bola Preta), partially collapsed in the corner of Rua do Lavrádio and Rua da Relação, in the Lapa section of Centro.
The city fire department found the building was empty at the time of the accident and that no one was hurt. It was later revealed that two pedestrians were slightly injured, according to Rio de Janeiro Civil Defense.
The Bola Preta Association is the oldest Carnival Bloco association in Rio. The association moved into this property after being evicted from their original headquarters in 2010.
Bola Preta’s President, Pedro Ernesto Marino, replied in a statement, “This property was never used for any Bola activity, except for storage. But (for the past few months), not even that. The building was already showing some cracks and fissures. Our event area is completely safe. The problem is just that corner. This problem has nothing to do with the everyday Cordão da Bola Preta.”
The building is located in the same area of town where there was a collapse of three buildings on January 25th, leaving seventeen dead and at least five still missing. Investigations into the causes of both accidents are still underway, but investigators say in both cases structural damage is most likely at fault. Structural decay is a looming threat to many historic properties throughout the city.
James Lomas, an expatriate living in Rio with the real estate investment firm Indigo, is not surprised because, “they [are] old buildings and they are not kept in good condition by owners or tenants. The structure probably isn’t that great anyway but if you don’t maintain, particularly when you are near the sea [with] a lot more corrosion due to the salt in the air.”
The Special Committee on Cultural Heritage of the City Council released a dismal report last December revealing 31 municipal, state or federal, buildings in various neighborhoods are in jeopardy of collapsing. Of these 31, some like the St. Francis Hospital, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, are landmark structures.
CREA-RJ (the Regional Council of Engineering and Architecture) President Agosto Guerreiro, suggested that the number of vulnerable structures is at least triple that amount. He believes around hundred historic sites in Rio are in need of renovations and are in danger of collapsing.
In fact, the CREA-RJ warned of the faulty condition of the Bola Preta building in a report issued a month ago. “We found the condition of the property to be poor. Repairs needed to be made to the property, it could not continue the way it was,” said Guerreiro.
In terms of real estate development, James Lomas went on to explain, “the main problem with the old buildings is that it is not worth spending money on renovating them due to restrictive planning laws which force you to keep the facade or prevent you from demolishing and reconstructing a larger building.”
“This is nice in theory as it keeps the old-style Rio, but if the building is not worth the money being spent on it then it will be left and eventually collapse, … [the local government] need to loosen the planning restrictions and make it commercially viable,” shared Lomas.