By Mira Olson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – State Transportation Secretary Júlio Lopes announced last week that the inauguration of the elevator that will directly connect the Cantagalo favela to Ipanema and to the General Osório metro station has been pushed to June of this year.
The elevator was scheduled to begin serving residents of the Cantagalo/Pavão-Pavãozinho communities as well as tourists this month, but the project remains far from completion. It is expected to start functioning in conjunction with the inauguration of the new General Osório metro entrance, “Teixeira de Melo”, located at the base of the elevator.
The structure will consist of two towers. The first, located at the corner of Teixeira de Melo and Barão da Torre, will be 64 meters high, equivalent to a 23-story building. In an effort to attract tourists, the tower will be equipped with shops, banks and restaurants, as well as a fifty-square-meter platform offering unique views of the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches and the Lagoa.
The second tower, 28 meters in height, will provide direct access into the Cantagalo/Pavão-Pavãozinho communities through the entrance at Rua Custódio de Mesquita in Cantagalo. The two towers will be connected by a covered walkway, 48 meters in length.
The primary objective of the project is to facilitate integration between the favela communities and the rest of the city below, thus improving the quality of life for an estimated 28,000 community residents. As a result, elevator access will be free and will operate during regular metro hours of operation. The two panoramic elevator cabins will have room for thirty passengers each.
The effects that the development is having on the surrounding neighborhood are already being manifested. The construction itself has replaced a garbage-collection and disposal unit at the street-level favela entrance, that along with the boca de fumo (drug dealing spot) and the distribution point for beach chairs that formerly operated alongside the catadores (garbage collectors), had greatly devalued real estate in the area. Since breaking ground, real estate values have increased by as much as forty percent.
The National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) is financing the estimated cost of the project (R$40 million). Although plans for the elevator have been in development since 2007 when President Lula visited Cantagalo with Governor Sergio Cabral, the project itself is not part of the government’s Growth Acceleration Plan (PAC), but is rather a project of the State Department of Transportation.
Inclusion of marginalized communities via public transportation is a growing trend throughout Latin America. In 2007, the Colombian city of Medellín was the first to implement such a method, using a system of cable cars integrated with the city’s metro system to extend public transportation into the ‘Comuna (favela) 13.’ After noting the initial success of the Medellín Metrocable, Rio and Caracas, Venezuela, quickly adopted similar development plans.
Secretary Lopes has informed the media that the elevator structure will be named “Rubem Braga” in honor of the chronicle writer that lived in a building neighboring the Cantagalo favela.