By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rua Saint Roman enjoys an enviable position in Rio. The cobbled street rises up behind Rua Sá Ferreira in Copacabana before snaking back in the direction of Cantagalo and descending down towards Praça General Osório in Ipanema. Having once been the address of Rio’s wealthy middle classes, it fell into decline but is being rejuvenated thanks to the investment of some enterprising foreigners.
Running along the edge of lush forest, it was originally colonized by families who wanted to escape the heat of sea level but remain close to Rio’s shores. They built grand and spacious houses from the beginning of the century onwards and by the 1940s Rua Saint Roman was attracting a chic crowd including artists and many Europeans who were drawn to the glamorous Hotel Belvedere which was also on the street.
In the Seventies informal housing started to spring up in Cantagalo eventually growing to become the Cantagalo-Pavão-Pavãozinho community, or favela. The emergence of the settlement affected houses prices on Rua Saint Roman and the street fell out of favor as the wealthy retreated. When, in 2009, the community began to be pacified foreigners were once again interested in the area.
Among the first were Benjamin Cano Planès and Louis Planès, two Frenchmen who had a dream of running a boutique hotel in a city they had fallen in love with. Casa Mosquito, at 222 Rua Saint Roman, opened in 2011. Housed in a former family home, the hotel has four bedrooms in the original building and a further five in a new extension which also features a roof-top bar, swimming pool and 360-degree views of Rio.
“The area received new life and breath after the pacification and arrival of Casa Mosquito,” explains Rosa dos Prazeres, the hotel’s manager. “We have guests from all over the world but often it is the Brazilians who say ‘I never knew about this street, how did I not know?’” For the Olympics next year, the entire hotel will become Belgium’s outpost in the city.
Up the street, at 184, Oasis, a design and service led short-stay letting and concierge agency, has recently opened The Clubhouse. It is their second private-members’ club, following the success of the first in Buenos Aires. Designed to be a “home away from home”, it is for both guests staying in their apartments as well as members.
“Culturally Rio is one of the most interesting cities in Latin America. The laid-back beach culture attracts fascinating folks from around Brazil and the world and The Clubhouse is a hub for creation and collaboration,” says Chief Hospitality Officer, Katharine Pottinger.
The building is a 1940s Tudor-style house with five bedrooms, a three-tiered terrace and a soon-to-be-opened pool and outside bar. “The view is stunning in a mystifying way and is unquestionably a Rio view. The neighborhood is vibrant and exciting – there are other new projects opening at the moment and we are confident that the street will continue to evolve. It has some fantastic buildings on it too. It has character and personality – the view, the music, the roosters, the people,” adds Pottinger.
Opposite, Parisian Sacha Gielbaum, who runs Rio Arts Club in Gávea, is opening a small condominium of seven loft apartments. “They are aimed at executives travelling for a short time who want a different experience than a typical Rio business hotel. I was inspired by the new concept of condos I had seen pop up in Williamsburg in New York that offer a younger and more modern alternative in housing,” he says.
Underneath the apartments, an experimental cocktail bar called Clandestino will host regularly changing events, catering to both guests of the condominium and locals. Club 222 on the roof of Casa Mosquito is open frequently for sunset and happy hour, and The Clubhouse will be hosting weekend barbecues throughout the summer, as well as cultural events and parties.