By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, May 29th, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes unveiled three new refurbished public squares in Rio’s Centro zone along the Guanabara Bay waterfront: Praça XV, Marechal Âncora and Largo da Misericórdia. The three public squares are part of the ongoing project to revitalize Porto Maravilha, which includes the opening of the Orla Conde, a 3.5 kilometers stretch located between the Armazém 8 (Warehouse 8) on Pier Mauá and the Praça da Misericórdia.
The revitalization of the city’s port zone began in 2013 in preparation for the 2016 Olympics, with the demolition of the Elevado da Perimetral highway along the bay, and the closing of Praça Mauá.
Praça Mauá recently re-opened in September 2015 providing residents with a 25,000-square-meter public plaza on the Guanabara Bay waterfront, and the new Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), the Museu de Arte do Rio, as well as bike lanes and walkways.
Now, with the additions of Praça XV, Marechal Âncora and Largo da Misericórdia inaugurated on Sunday, residents and visitors have another 77,978 square meters of space for cultural, sports and leisure activities.
According to Mayor Paes, the revitalization of the port area is not only about attracting residents, visitors and businesses to this once-neglected part of the city, it is also about honoring Rio’s rich past. “This is a fantastic area of the city,” said Mayor Paes.
“It is not just about reuniting the city with Guanabara Bay, without the Elevado da Perimetral, but it’s reuniting the city with the history of Brazil.” The mayor added, “This is where the royal family arrived and it was also the scene of major political events. It is a space that we want the locals to attend, bringing together the fantastic architecture of Rio with history and museums and cultural centers.”
The removal of the Elevado da Perimetral waterfront highway, once considered one of Rio’s most important arteries, allowed the city to create the new public plazas which now stretch to the edges of Guanabara Bay with a clear view of the waterfront. It has also given more visibility for the area’s many historic buildings, once obstructed by the elevated highway, such as the Paço Imperial (Imperial Palace), Palácio Tiradentes (Tiradentes Palace), the Naval Museum, and São José church.
“The work of City Hall to recover this area, which is the birthplace of the city, redeems history and brings people to the Centro area,” said Alberto Silva, president of Urban Development of the Port of Rio de Janeiro (CDURP).
About three hundred residents and visitors from every corner of the city, attended Sunday’s inauguration, along with numerous government officials. The opening celebration showcased musical and dance performances, along with other cultural attractions in the three new public squares such as theater performances and street art.
Sixty-one-year-old Catarina Oliveira, a resident of Praça Mauá for 33 years, took her four-year-old granddaughter to the inauguration and was excited about the improvements to the area. “The redeveloped Praça XV and Praça Mauá,” she said, “are wonderful for Rio and for the residents here. They were ugly spaces and so no one came. Now our region is enriched with all these recreational areas.”