By Joanna Hansford and Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following the pacification of some of Rio’s more fortunately located favela communities, a spike in speculation has driven some development higher than many would have thought possible just five years ago. With the recent opening of a new self-titled ‘boutique hostel’ Mirante do Arvrão, now luxury-styled accommodations are available at the very top of Vidigal, offering sweeping views over Leblon and Ipanema beach.
The Mirante do Arvrão opened on February 24th and was designed and built by Brazilian architect Hélio Pellegrino. It is a shared investment with Francisco Pellegrino, Antônio Rodrigues (owner of the bar chain Belmonte), Conrado Denton and Fernando Vitor Penteado.
Hélio Pellegrino came up with the idea because of the neighborhood’s “beautiful view, rich nature and welcoming community,” representative Fernando Vitor Penteado told The Rio Times.
The modern and elegant design has an open feel, with expansive windows providing magnificent views of the city. Throughout the space, there are mosaic panels of floral and aquatic life, which are made up of a blend of brick and tile fragments that are leftovers from Hélio’s other works. The result is a delightful rustic-chic feel that will welcome those hostel (shared room) guests as well as those in the private rooms.
The Mirante do Arvrão prides itself on being constructed from a hundred percent eco-friendly, mostly recycled materials, and is also completely self-sustainable, with showers powered by solar energy and a sophisticated sewage system, so that dirty water may be recycled and reused.
Yet the goal is not only ecological sustainability, but social sustainability as well. All of the employees are from Vidigal, which the partners believe serves to enhance community engagement with the project.
However as one of the first luxury developments in Vidigal, Mirante do Arvrão experienced some difficulties when residents of the favela community expressed concern over the possible negative impacts and the lack of infrastructure to support it. Construction was reportedly delayed because of zoning issues shortly after a report was published by O Globo in 2012.
In recent years more and more ocean-view favelas have experienced incredible increases in property prices as investors and foreigners try to secure million-dollar-view properties without the Zona Sul (South Zone) price tag, and Vidigal is no exception, with property prices rising by more than fifty percent since its pacification in 2011.
In May of 2013, Vidigal real estate broker José Nélio Pereira da Silva told O Globo that between 2011 and 2012, he sold around forty apartments in the favela to people from outside the community. In June 2013, he told NPR that in 2006, a house in Vidigal cost US$2,500, and as of June 2013, the same house sold for US$75,000. NPR also found that there are now more foreigners buying in Vidigal than locals.
Even with Rio’s property boom slowing down to a (list price) sizable rate of fifteen percent in 2013, such explosive growth comes at a hefty price; pushing many long-time residents out of affordable housing. Vidigal in particular is a prime target of gentrification, as a result of its enviable placement between Leblon and São Conrado.