By Virgilio Arnaut, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The bohemian haven of Lapa is going through yet another stage in its evolution. In the last five years, the area has successfully transformed itself in the most popular nightlife destination in Rio. It now draws hordes of revelers to its bars and clubs.
Yet for residents, a degraded infrastructure has left many complaining about the lack of attention given to basic services. The city of Rio is now seeking to make Lapa as much a name for its amenities as it has already for its world-class nightlife.
The project Lapa Legal (Cool Lapa) was announced during the 14º Fashion Rio launch ceremony by Rio’s Secretary of Culture, Jandira Feghalli. “We want to simultaneously attract, welcome and better serve people in Lapa,” said Feghalli.
There is a lot of work to be done before Cariocas get a smoothly run Lapa. Traffic jams through the night and inadequate parking are critical problems. Violence is another grave issue, with hundreds of robberies and assaults reported monthly. The clubs pose problems as well, with long lines that spill onto the sidewalk and block pedestrian traffic.
Among the first targets of the project are the illicit car watchers, who charge as much as R$20 for a parking space. Illegal vendors crowding the sidewalks selling everything from drinks to barbecue are also on the list.
Beyond fighting petty crime, Lapa Legal will reclaim the urban space, by redirecting car traffic from congested areas. It will also attend to pedestrians and invest in better street cleaning and lighting.
Real estate investors are starting to notice that Lapa’s clean-up is a sign of deeper change in the neighborhood. Revitalization means better infrastructure, and will certainly draw more visitors to the area. The project will create more jobs and increased retail commerce, factors directly influencing property and rental values.
Those looking to invest in a property with high growth potential, Lapa may just be Rio’s dark horse. The real estate market was previously thought to be dead after ten years of near-zero activity. That all changed with the construction of the condominium Cores da Lapa (Colors of Lapa). The building’s 688 apartments with prices ranging from R$85,000 to R$150,000, divided in thirteen buildings, were sold the night of its market launch, beating all expectations.
The impressive Cores da Lapa results have changed the real estate scenario in Rio. Following the project’s sale, investment interest in the area has multiplied and corporations are now looking to other areas ripe for redevelopment.
Another strong sign of Lapa’s undervalued potential came just three weeks after the Cores da Lapa with the launching of the Quartier Carioca. Another super-condominium, with 880 apartments in eight buildings, the development is located in Catete. There, 65 percent of the project’s units were sold in its first day on the market.
Certainly the Lapa Legal project will garner the support of residents and businessmen alike. The question is how serious and to what length will the government play a role in this crucial redevelopment process. If the project meets all of the goals it has set, a revitalized Lapa will undoubtedly lead to better living conditions and continued investment opportunities.