Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sao Paulo-The big "CLEAN UP"

"Nova Luz" is one of the largest re-urbanization projects the city of Sao Paulo ever saw. 
It includes the expropriation and demolition of hundreds of buildings, many of them old sky scrapers from the past century that are in poor condition and accelerated process of disrepair.
The city plans to widen sidewalks, build new green areas, new parks and squares. There is R$150 Million Reais for public improvements, the idea is less space for cars, more space for pedestrians.
Large public and private parking garages, several commercial enterprises catering to entertainment and leisure.
If you are not familiar with this part of Sao Paulo, let me introduce it to you.

Typical street of this section of Sao Paulo downtown

This area of downtown Sao Paulo has been degraded for many decades, here is where you find the infamous "Boca do Lixo" which means "Trash Mouth", a street famous for the large concentration of drug dealers, in later years, it became the place for crack addicts, where they purchase and consume the drug on the sidewalks. Social workers even take them clean seringues trying to curb down the spread of diseases.
Another infamous street in the area is called Aurora Street, which has been Sao Paulo's "red light" district for over a century now. Rua Aurora is a part of many books with stories that include Prostitution and brothels in the city of Sao Paulo. Young wealthy sons of farmers have flocked to Rua Aurora street looking for Prostitution for over a century.

The ground floors are occupied by commerce but some of these buildings look horrible above the ground

The large movie theaters of the region lost their public in the 70's and 80's with the proliferation of Sao Paulo Malls that offered smaller cinemas with free easy parking in the Malls and a much better option for Sao Paulo's middle class. In the Malls you didn't have to worry about parking, or if it was raining, there are no safety concerns. The old traditional movie theaters downtown Sao Paulo didn't stand a chance and the ones from this specific area were the first ones to go.
After loosing their middle class audience, most of these gigantic movie theaters started featuring Porn movies and some even became places for "Live Sex Shows" and "Strip Joints" and attracted the anonymous blue collar men from the downtown area. It was a sad combination with the existing concentration of prostitution and the presence of drugs in some of the streets nearby, the whole area went down hill very fast.

Typical street of the Nova Luz region

This project brings a lot of hope, think "Time Square" and the big clean up "Mayor Giuliani" was able to implement in the 90's. Time Square today resembles a mix of Disney and Las Vegas downtown. There are families with children, M&M flagship store, Toys R US flagship store and other similar attractions.
New York was very successful in expelling the strip clubs, sex shops, drugs and prostitution from the area.
I just hope Sao Paulo can be as successful with this ambitious project.
The city has been restoring parts of downtown Sao Paulo since the mid 80's, so now is the time for this section of downtown. Here is also where you will find the famous "Santa Efigenia street" where you can find hundreds of hardware and software stores that caters to the electronics industry. My brother goes to Santa Efigenia street and buy all the parts he will need to assemble his own laptop at his living room. He has done it more than once.
So the biggest opposition this whole project is facing so far is the UNION of the "Electronics Stores" from Santa Efigenia street. Many of them are in very old and semi abandoned buildings, see, some of these buildings might have 10 or 15 levels but only the ground floor is occupied by an electronic store, the rest is either empty without any maintenance or is inhabited by prostitutes, drug dealers and very poor people that have no means to keep up the proper maintenance of this structures. 

Buildings with very poor maintenance

The city has had to build a protection around some of these building because bricks are literally falling down on pedestrians at the sidewalks.
This situation has to change, so the city is negotiating with some business owners promising them a spot in the new areas designated for commerce.
There will be better, easier parking and certainly more patrons once the area is cleaned up and safer. 

New Fatec University Campus building

Some new construction has already hit the area and cranes can be seen working at full force.
The picture above is the new FATEC University building, downtown campus, next to Sao Paulo's Central Police Station downtown, which is the round, concrete and black glass building across the street from Fatec.
Below is a great map of the region which highlights the changes:

1-The buildings in dark and light GRAY color are the ones staying. The colored areas are the buildings being demolished and replaced with the new proposed plan by the city of Sao Paulo.

2-The buildings in RED are the areas designated for NEW commercial enterprises.

3-The buildings in BLUE are the designated areas for office space.

4-GREEN areas are parks and squares.

5-The PINK areas are designated for entertainment such as Cinemas, Bowling Alleys, Candy and Ice Cream Shops, Fast Food plazas and such.

There are also plans for new public schools, public health clinics and plenty of parking garages to attract people from the suburbs who will be able to park their cars and walk around the new pedestrian friendly areas.
It is a very ambitious project, but I think this is the perfect time for big "clean up" projects like this, when the city has large budgets, the economy is red hot and there is a lot of consumer confidence to incentive new investments in these kinds of projects.
The critics are saying the project will make "affordable" rent scarce in these areas of downtown. I think they have to find a happy medium.
New apartment projects will blossom in the area when the middle class feels safe to move back downtown.
This part of Sao Paulo already has a great infrastructure with many subway stations, decent option of roads nearby, Hospitals and Schools, once the "clean up", the most important attractive factor will return to this part of downtown, which is "safety".
People want to live in a safe area and they will move in the minute you provide peace of mind.
Ask New Yorkers if they would rather have Time Square back to what it was in the late 80's!
I don't think so, no regrets, moving forward.
Sorry, but the prostitutes, the drug dealers and the crack addicts will have to leave.

PS: By the way, I am not against prostitution. I think it should be legalized and organized like it is in some European countries. Perhaps drugs like pot should be legal too, that would be a low blow to organized crime, but that is a whole other discussion. :)


Born Again Brazilian said...

So glad to know that this is happening. We were downtown this past weekend to see some historic sites, and it was pretty sketchy.

Ray and Gil said...

Dear B.A.B,

It is bad right now, when I was a kid in the 70's, downtown was clean and safe. My grandma used to take us to "Lojas Americanas" for lunch, we usualy had delicious Cheeseburgers, fries, and a "Banana Split" served inside a Pineapple for dessert. We rode on the subway, walked everywhere and went shopping for shoes and clothes. At the end of the afternoon we would go into one of the large Theathers to catch a movie and then head home. It was so much fun. At the time Sao Paulo only had Iguatemi and Ibirapuera Malls, but my grandmother hates A/C buildings with no windows. She thinks ( up to this day ) that Malls are horrible enclosed boxes with no life. She loved to take us downtown by bus, subway and walk around the nice green parks and squares. It would be great if future generations can experience that again. Malls serve their purpose in my opinion, but I do enjoy downtown shops and parks much better, consider they can restore the safety and clean streets we once had. :)


Ray and Gil said...

oops, considering..."they can restore safety and clean streets"...

Alex said...

It looks like it will be great!

Espero que saia do papel!

Ray and Gil said...


It has already "saiu do papel"...
It's actually in full progress, they are facing fierce opposition from "Rua Santa Efigenia" Electronic Store owners so there will be a few changes as they go.
But they have already been buldozing the heck out of many blocks of old buildings.


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