By Kristen Nozell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Lapa’s reputation is among the most famous destinations in Rio, known to both Cariocas and travelers alike as the bairro (neighborhood) where samba and cachaça-filled establishments infuse the air when the sun goes down. This description certainly fits on weekend nights, but there is more to the centrally located, historic neighborhood, and the real estate market has caught on.
Besides the many bars and restaurants for which it is well known, Lapa is also home to several impressive landmarks. The Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches), an iconic structure built in the 1700s, has become a symbol of the city.
The aqueduct was designed for the purpose of transporting water between Santa Teresa and the nearby Morro de Santo Antônio, and was used until recently as a part of the bonde (tram) route to Santa Teresa.
Another well-known landmark of the neighborhood is the Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Stairs), the colorfully tiled steps connecting Lapa to Santa Teresa. The art project was the life-work of Chilean artist and painter Jorge Selarón and is a must-see, especially after his death earlier this year.
Beyond its popularity for weekend revelry, historic landmarks and bohemian reputation (in the mid 20th century, Lapa gained the title ‘Montmartre Carioca’), Lapa is also a vibrant residential neighborhood. Bordered by Cidade Nova, Glória and Santa Teresa, the central location is a draw, and developments in recent years have transformed the lively district into a safer, more appealing area in which to reside.
“Lapa changes from day to night… the feeling and look of the place are always moving. That’s why I love it,” boasts one resident.
Bob Fetterman, an American expatriate in Rio and co-owner of the Rio Bohemia Hostel just under the Arches, explains that Lapa is not an especially dangerous area, stating that like everywhere in Rio, one just has to use “common sense”.
British expatriate Scott Fearnley recently purchased, renovated and sold a two-bedroom apartment in Lapa. “We bought a two-bedroom place in Lapa in last January and I spent three months renovating it myself.”
He specifically chose Lapa because of the good value at the time. “We bought in Lapa because it was still affordable; best square meter for your money. And prices where going up quicker there with Lapa becoming its own neighborhood than anywhere else in Zona Sul [South Zone].” However he adds the real estate prices today have “caught up and are ridiculous.”
Mirroring much of Rio’s real estate development, apartment purchase prices have been steadily increasing, although Lapa’s market has experienced a more rapid growth this year in comparison to other neighborhoods, overtaking neighboring Glória in July for the first time since 2011.
An average cost per square meter of R$9.341 was reported that month, reflecting a 21.7 percent increase over the course of just one year. Rental prices have been more volatile, currently at R$51 per square meter but having peaked at R$58 in April of 2012. Generally, because of the active restaurant and nightlife scene, rental prices in Lapa are higher than in surrounding Centro neighborhoods.