By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Long known as being a city of excess, now the home life of many Cariocas has also been touched by the phenomenon as the development of the ‘Super Condominium’ takes hold in Rio. A miniature city within a city, some with on-site schools, shops and basically everything you could need all within a gated community, they have become all the rage, fueled by the media’s scare-mongering of the middle and upper class and their portrayal of the condo-dream.
When Barra started to grow in the eighties there was little else for miles around, so the idea of an all-in-one condo was developed to further attract investors – more had to be offered in spite of the then newly built Carrefour and Barrashopping retail centers. Beyond Jardim Oceânico was mostly wilderness, a few buildings dotted sparingly throughout.
A lot has changed since, and the Barra condo concept has now spread throughout town, stretching to all directions. If the new ‘Thai’ development is taken as a benchmark, in the near future they will even more closely begin to resemble themed holidays resorts.
Most of the condos come with vast leisure facilities as standard, even when located in densely populate neighborhoods such as Cores da Lapa, and Catete’s Quartier Carioca. Behind the gates of both lie shops, restaurants, cinemas, rehearsal studios, swimming pools, football courts, internet cafes and even ‘zen’ areas to relax in.
All this of course comes with a price tag, and most will have four-figure condominium fees. Bella Berger lives in the Varandas de Barra Bonita in Recreio, which is served with full leisure facilities, internet, phone and maintenance included. She pays a three-figure fee for the privilege, one of the cheapest in the super-condo market, yet she would rather not have it at all.
“I would prefer to pick and choose the services myself,” she says. “Here phone service is more expensive, broadband slower than I would like, maintenance services are paid for on a per-hour basis, and some overpriced. My phone is from a different company and ideally, I would replace the Internet provider, in the end paying twice for services”.
The other cost is a more human one. Márcia Lávia lives in the Península condo in Barra da Tijuca which is almost the size of Leblon neighborhood. Although she moved there only a year ago, Márcia is no stranger to Barra’s condo life where she raised her kids.
“There is a sense of security behind closed gates” she says, “but the down-side is it all seems very impersonal. There isn’t the old caretaker figure from when I grew up, who knew your parents and would impose a certain authority if a kid got out of line.”
Nowadays, services within the super-condos are provided by third-party companies. “I was barred by the security guard in my own building the other day,” she continues. “My eighteen year-old only recently discovered Centro and barely knows Ipanema or Leblon. It is mall leisure for kids around here and some of them never leave Barra for anything”.
On a positive note, she has all the leisure facilities she needs, a party sized balcony with barbecue, breathtaking views of Lagoa da Tijuca, a natural forest reserve as her surroundings and, above all, silence. Plus her property is set to increase in value with the Barra subway building works already begun to link into Zona Sul.
There are many resort-like super-condo developments launched every month and not all in Barra. Parque Laranjeiras is a prime example fitted with all the luxury dictated by today’s real estate market. Situated on top of a hill looking directly at Christ the Redeemer and the site of an old private boarding school, it will be an island of tranquility with a minimum price tag of just over R$500,000. Put simply, “new” condo life may not exactly be for the faint-hearted.