By Antoni Galbany, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Porto Maravilha Project is one of the major revitalization initiatives for Rio’s Centro district that the city government is working on under the 2016 Olympic Games countdown. It is a massive project set to transform this area of the city, but of course the process of demolition and construction can be messy business.
Rio’s Centro is getting restored day-by-day, now more than ever. Most citizens who have not visited these areas recently may not realize how much and how fast the Centro has been changing.
The Porto Maravilha Project at Barrio Saúde is already feeling results. Its main goal is revitalizing forgotten areas in Centro such as Praça Mauá and Igreja São Francisco da Prainha, as well as the extension of a rail tunnel on Morro da Providência.
An important part of these revitalization projects is the Programa Morar Carioca, which is working to improve the quality of life to families who live in Centro. The project includes a cable car construction and restoration of Jardim Suspenso do Valongo, a Babylonian Garden built by Francisco Pereira Passos.
This urban planner was responsible for the construction of Avenida Central (today Avenida Rio Branco), Uruguaiana and the large public space besides Arcos da Lapa. To do that, the project demolished hundreds of homes, providing breathing room an extremely densely-populated area.
Unfortunately, this undertaking meant the demolition of about 1,600 old buildings and many more residences, many of whose tenants later moved to o Favela da Providência.
Stepping off at Presidente Vargas subway station and going north, changes at Rua Camerino are already visible after about eight months of work.
Although things are beginning to improve, Saúde remains as an insalubrious place to live according to Paco Rodríguez, a young Spanish entrepreneur who recently moved to Rio. “The air is very polluted and streets are full of garbage.”
“On top of my furniture there is always dark dust, which I can never get rid of. But the good things are a very cheap rent of R$600 and, a cheap supermarket. However, I am wishing to move to another neighborhood”, says Rodríguez.
Right next to Rodríguez’s apartment stands the Amazonas Hotel, which has been growing for the last few years. Management staff look at the future with a lot of enthusiasm and hope: “We have been working a lot, reforming our installations for the next big challenge: the World Cup. Our goal is stopping renting rooms per hour. In a few months we will only rent rooms per day”, says the hotel manager.
Another Project that belongs to the Programa Morar Carioca is also showing results: the final part of the construction of 120 apartments at Morro da Providência, a seven block condominium on Nabuco Freitas Street, is expected to be completed within a few months.