By Ana Gabriela Ribeiro, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Over the last several years, the well-traveled square Praça General Osorio in Rio’s famous Ipanema, known for its Feira Hippie (hippie market) and Carnival bloco Banda de Ipanema, has been reinvigorated with a series of infrastructure developments, transforming it from a “up-and-coming” area to high-end real estate. With Brazil’s economical growth and the Olympic effect, the praça (park) is now amongst the best developed areas in the city.
The first major development was the massive elevator, equivalent in height to a 23-story building, which now connects the Cantagalo and Pavão/Pavãozinho favela communities that sit above Ipanema. The next massive infrastructure change was the opening of the Metro station.
The Praça General Osorio stop became the nineteenth on Line One of the Metro transit system. Residents and local merchants have drastically felt some of these improvements, describing better security, foot-traffic business and general quality of life.
Reginaldo Lima, a flower seller in the Praça General Osorio for eighteen years, claims that security is much better than before. Also Jadson Dourado, manager of Terzetto Café, explains that the shop was opened to attend the new public that came with the metro station, three years ago.
“The number of people coming to Terzetto has tripled since,” he says. Another interesting fact is that some of his clients live in Cantagalo which he considered unlikely before the elevator and UPP.
For Fazendola’s restaurant manager, Moacir Bueno, he notices less people begging and selling candies at the park, “This is more comfortable for our clients having dinner in our restaurant outside on the Praça,” he says.
All the investment and revival in the area has had a significant impact on the commercial real estate naturally. Padrig Flavin, who owned the much missed expatriate local watering hole, the Irish Pub, lost the space in late 2010.
Flavin explains: “Our rent was doubled which wasn’t too bad, the problem was the owner wanted a fiador after we’d been there eight years paying the rent on time… Also R$50,000 in cash to renew the contract, kind of a second luvas which we’d payed R$100,000 with the original contract in 2002.”
For others, such as Ricardo Simoes, manager of Banana Jack and resident in Ipanema, there are still more improvements to be made. With the increase of tourists, and people coming from the beach, there should be more public toilets to avoid people going to those in the restaurants.
Simoes also points out, a lack of a 24-hour withdraw cash machine. “The Metro only works until midnight. If someone needs a cab, they probably will need cash, since there are not a lot of cabs with credit card machines.”
Some of the interviewed people also made other suggestions, such as creation of parking places for motorcycles, which started to be fined with the “Choque de Ordem” (Shock and Order) UOP program. Also cleaning the water and fountain in the park is on the list of improvements noted.
As for Virginia Cavalcanti, writer and fifteen-year resident, she praises the recent security she has, and the significant increase of lights on her street and on the park. The only complain she has, is that with the increase of tourists, a juice in a lanchonete (a snack bar) that used to cost R$2.50 last year, now costs R$4.
For Vera Dias, a historian, the most beautiful improvement is the four reconstructed Saracura birds and the bronze turtles from the park’s fountain, which were victims of theft and vandalism in 2008 and December 2010 and were replaced on December last year.