By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Marina da Glória, in Flamengo, was re-opened on Thursday, April 7th. For almost a decade access to the sailing port and surrounding complex has been restricted. Now, following extensive works, the area has been overhauled, opened up to the public and will be used to host sailing events during the 2016 Olympic Games in August.
As part of the revitalization of the area, the marina has been incorporated into the surrounding Flamengo park, which is close to the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) and Santos Dumont airport, creating a new recreational space for the public.
A reported R$70 million of private investment has been spent renovating and expanding the existing structure. There are now 24 shops and five restaurants inside 12,200 square meters of built area, as well as an events pavilion. The number of dry docks has increased from 70 to 240 and the number of wet spaces from 140 to 415. There are now also 470 car-parking spaces.
Further works, including a second public boat ramp, a leisure area overlooking the bay and bike paths, are due to be added after the Olympics. The contract has passed between three different companies over the past ten years and has come up against a number of court cases. BR Marinas, who completed the work, have had the contract from the City Hall since 2014. Initial it was held by EBTE (Empresa Brasileira de Terraplanagem e Engenharia) and from 2009 it was held by oil tycoon Eike Batista and his company EBX Group.
Batista wanted to incorporate the marina with the nearby Hotel Glória, which he bought in 2008. He planned to return the first five-star hotel in Rio back to its former glory and link it with a conference centre at the Marina. However, his empire fell dramatically in 2013, ending most of his trading and the hotel has since stood empty.
In order to take on the concession BR Marina had to buy Batista’s company that was running the project, MGX. Questions arose over the selection process and it has been investigated by the judiciary.
It is just one of the many problems the project has run into. The Association of the Users of the Marina da Glória have long argued that the original function of the marina, for sailors, has been relegated to second place.
“They only think about making money and forget the main function of the Marina da Glória, which is as a public marina,” Luiz Goldfeld, the association’s director, told Folha de São Paulo.
BR Marinas say that seventy percent of the income from the new project will come from the nautical area and a further 30 percent from the event area.
“Those who criticize have not seen the new design, which gives full priority to the nautical activities, with more car spaces and shops exclusively for nautical goods. Our project is much smaller than Eike’s, precisely because we prioritize the original function of the marina. To say that there is a change of function is an untruth,” said Gabriela Lobato, president of BR Marinas.
Batista ran into problems with the Institute of Historical and Architectural Heritage (Iphan). He was criticized for having to many buildings since the structure is part of the Flamengo Park, which is listed by the institute.