By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While American real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump has been extremely busy the past year in his pursuit of the U.S. presidency, the Rio de Janeiro project bearing his name, Trump Towers Rio, seems no closer to completion than when it was first unveiled in 2012. Local news reports indicate that visits to the area show no sign of any activity related to the grand plans announced several years ago.
At that time, the ambitious Trump Towers Rio, was part of the larger revitalization project of Rio’s Port Zone ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics. Called Porto Maravilha, the project covered an area of five million square meters of the city’s port district, framed by Presidente Vargas, Rodrigues Alves, Rio Branco and Francisco Bicalho avenues in Rio’s Centro neighborhood.
Announced with much fan-fare at a special ceremony on August 18, 2012, attended by both Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and Trump Organization vice president, Donald Trump Jr., Trump Towers Rio was set to become the largest urban office complex of the emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.
Plans for the $2.1 billion project included five 150-meter tall, 38-story towers, with over 320,000 square meters of office space. Construction was set to begin in 2013, and the buildings were to open in 2016. But according to reports, it appears those plans never left the drawing room.
Currently, the area where Trump Towers Rio was to be built, at Avenida Francisco Bicalho in Rio’s commercial district, Centro, shows no sign of any construction activity. There are no construction vehicles, materials, supplies, or workers of any kind. At the Trump Towers Rio site is a samba school, Unidos da Tijuca, and a Municipal Guard depot.
Officials from the samba school revealed to O Globo that they have not received any notice about any construction or having to be displaced, and they continue to operate normally.
The Trump Towers Rio project, which seems more unlikely each passing day, received more unwelcome news earlier last week. Just released Brazilian public court filings, showed that, under Operation Greenfield, the federal government’s vast corruption investigation of state agencies, the Trump Organization and the Trump Towers Rio project, were among the number of companies said to have received illegal favoritism in selection and financial backing from state agencies.
In September, it was reported that these investments, siphoned to several projects in the revitalized Port Zone, led to the loss of some R$8 billion in pension funds.
In a statement released last week, the Trump Organization denied any responsibility for the project or its involvement in the investigation. “The Trump Organization is not the owner or developer of Trump Towers Rio and, accordingly, has no knowledge whatsoever regarding any governmental inquiry involving the project,” said the statement.
The developer of Trump Towers Rio is Bulgarian real estate conglomerate, the MRP Group, who in turn licensed the use of the Trump name from DT Marks Rio LLC.
Despite Trump’s troubles in Rio’s Port Zone, in Barra da Tijuca, the Republican U.S. presidential candidate has his name attached to the Trump Rio hotel, a 170-room luxury hotel, which did open, in August 2016.