By Tim Anderson, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – São Conrado is an upmarket suburb in Zona Sul (South zone), just some five kilometers from the famous Ipanema and Leblon beaches. The status of this area is well established having been exclusively owned for hundreds of years, originally belonging to the Governor of the city who also later cultivated sugar cane in the area during the Seventeenth century.
The name, however, originates from a later resident Colonel Conrado Jacob Niemeyer, who built the tiny São Conrado Church (which still stands today) at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Much later, in the 1970s, a highway was extended into the area and the growth of this wealthy and relatively isolated location has since been steady. Several luxury hotels and exclusive condominiums have since moved into the heavily forested mountain side, part of the Parque National da Tijuca.
Today, São Conrado also offer a high-end fashion mall and is the launching point for hang gliding and paragliding operators. The luxury Gavea Golf Club was given a royal British approval when visited by Prince Edward and is one of the most exclusive in the city.
Property here has some of the highest per square meter cost of anywhere in Rio. This is despite being shadowed by Rocinha, the the largest favela in Rio. A common juxtaposition in the city with poverty surrounding wealth, magnified by São Conrado’s elite position.
Overlooking all is the Pedra da Gávea, a 850 meter high rock towering over the area very popular with hikers and climbers. It takes about three hours for a relatively fit person to make the steep climb to the summit. Some of the brave (and experienced) even spend the night there to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over the city.
Alongside it is the Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Rock) and it is from this point that the hang gliding and paragliding takes place landing on the main Pepino beach. Every year nearly 23,000 people enjoy the high-flying views of views of the Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers Mountain) in Ipanema, São Conrado beach and the Tijuca National Forest.
Recent developments to the area around Rocinha include a sports and training facility for local residents with a mall and cinema attached alongside. It remains to be seen whether these developments will improve the safety and opportunities for Rocinha’s residents.
Prices vary according to views and proximity to the Rocinha favela, but compared to July 2009 prices, the area has seen the same staggering increased of 20-25 percent. Today two bedrooms start at around R$400,000, while three and four range between R$600,000, and R$3 million. All beachfront properties start at around R$1 million, and houses are usually large with garden and pool, and sell for around R$2 million, going all the way up to the R$10 million range.
For renting, most apartments have at least two bedrooms, and most have three and four, as the neighborhood consists mainly of family homes. The rare two-bedrooms that are available start at R$2,000 per month and go up to R$4,500, where three-bedrooms start at R$4,000 and go up to R$6,000 per month.