By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On a map the neighborhood of Humaitá cuts a higgedly-piggedly shape out of the landscape. Stamped between Christ the Redeemer and the Lagoa, for some it is just on the way to its buzzier brother, Botafogo, or prettier sister, Jardim Botânico. But for those who live there, it is well located, with as many amenities as you might need and plenty of hidden pockets of charm and community.
Originally part of Botafogo when it was founded in the 1500s, it later separated and was called Humaitá in honour of the battle of the same name that took place in Paraguay in 1868. The area has a rich history and is one of the few places in Zona Sul (South Zone) to still have traditional houses, some of which, particularly on the slopes of Corcovado, have World Heritage status. From almost every point in the neighborhood it is possible to see Christ and enjoy the wildlife that lives in the jungle below him.
Nowadays it is home to a handy selection of bars, restaurants and shops. The main attraction is the Cobal de Humaitá. Formerly a tram shed before becoming a fruit and vegetable market, it is now a cluster of restaurants, bars and food shops that occupies almost an entire block. Of an evening the outdoors tables fill up with diners of all ages tucking into everything from Joaquina’s traditional Brazilian fare, or Mexican from Rota 66 while watching the game, to trying the craft beers from Antiga Mercearia e Bar, lactose-free brownies from Brownieria or Yogoberry’s frozen yogurt.
Recently, Kolor, an art, film and photography collective, has been hosting pop-up events and parties at a townhouse on João Afonso street. Their move into Humaitá reflects the growing popularity of the inland neighborhoods, such as Botafogo, among the young and creative. However, the area also caters well to families with the Lagoa not far away, Casa Espana, a Spanish cultural and leisure centre and club, and some lesser-known attractions for kids.
The playground and toys at Parque do Martelo, a community-run space in a quiet street of Rua Humaitá, is a favorite of Hettie Allison. With a colorful wooden slide, swings and an old fashioned merry-go-round, it is loved by children of all ages, she explains. Her family chose to move to the area in 2012 having been a priced out of nearby Gávea. The best thing about the neighborhood? The location, she says.
“From a work/play point of view, you’re in a pivotal position for Centro, Lapa and Santa Teresa (thanks to the Rebouças tunnel) plus the international airport, as well as still being a short taxi ride away from the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.”
While Brazil’s economy suffers, the price of housing to both buy and let in Rio is being affected. The cost of real estate has slowed from 17 percent growth on average per square meter between August 2013 and August 2014, to just 5.8 percent in the same twelve months this year. And growth has been below inflation leading to a drop in value in real terms.
Humaitá is no exception. One of five of twenty upmarket Rio neighborhoods recently surveryed by FipeZap for Exame magazine, it has experienced a nominal drop (negative six percent) in the price per square meter in the past year. The average price of a square meter to buy in Humaitá is at the moment R$12.144, down from R$12.707 in January. To rent, the average cost of a square meter is R$45, down also from a high of R$49 at the beginning of the year.
“From most apartments, you can also get a fabulous view of the lake which is mesmerizing, particularly at night,” adds Allison. “It will offer additional excitement come Rio 2016 when the rowing will start from the Humaitá side of the Lagoa.” Given the strength of the dollar and pound against the real, Humaitá will be an increasingly attractive option for foreigners looking to settle in the city ahead of the Olympic Games.