“The beginning of the decline of the Bairro do Recife occurred with the halting of the port activities, but before that, the families who lived in the neoclassical-style buildings and houses left the neighborhood and came to occupy other areas such as Boa Vista, Derby, and Casa Forte, to escape the red-light districts that settled in the vicinity of the Port. The neighborhood was uninhabited and its historical grandeur faded for a few decades.
Only at the end of the 1980s, when there was a first attempt at revitalization, with the gastronomic center, did people begin to take another look. Over the past 25 years, the island started to play host to the city’s political power, becoming the home of the Federal Court, Federal Police and Post Office, plus malls, cultural centers and Port Digital itself. Nevertheless, it still hasn’t succeeded in bringing back the locals. The only area where people are living is the Pilar community.
By the end of the year, the city must submit a development plan for the neighborhood. The challenge is to make it an attractive space any time of day. The consolidated set of experiments, and others that haven’t left the planning stage, are essential for the formation of the urban fabric. “The perfect neighborhood is one that when the lights of commerce and services go off, the lights in the houses go on,” said the urban planner Amélia Reynaldo, who participated in the revitalization project in the 1980s and made the Recife and Olinda Cultural-Tourist Complex plan.
Urban interventions currently in progress, from the Porto Novo project and the state government, promise to change the current scenario. “The neighborhood is getting private leisure and service enterprises,” said Recife’s Secretary of Planning, Anthony Alexander. According to him, the vitality of the neighborhood is determined by the ability to attract people. “The gastronomic center couldn’t sustain itself alone. It was a learning experience.”
The urban planner Amélia Reynaldo says the neighborhood is already home to many public services, but at night it’s a ghost town. “We need to bring the houses back and make sustainability policies possible, as has occurred elsewhere in the world where there are port areas.” The city’s urban plan will do studies that will figure out which properties can serve as a housing or service providers.
The City of Recife also intends to put in place legal instruments such as the progressive property tax, which increases the extent of property degredation; credit operations, which allow for private investment, and also the transfer of constructive law, through which the city may assign other spaces to an owner. “The idea is to attract the private sector to invest in a historic district , which will be endowed with various urban facilities,” she concluded.
Model for mobility solutions
With the success of bike rentals, the Bairro do Recife will soon get two major pilot projects in the area of mobility. This time, it’ll revolve around the sharing of electric cars and the so-called Zona 30 – when vehicles, bikes and pedestrians share the same road. For this, the speed limit will be set at 30 km/hr, considered to lower the risk of accidents.
About 2.5 miles of common shared streets will be allocated. “The first intervention will be to improve the sidewalks. We’re going to put up signs and inform drivers that slower speeds are required,” said Secretary of Urban Mobility and Control, João Braga. Only Alfredo Lisboa, Madre de Deus and the Marquês de Olinda will not be included. If it gets a good reception by residents, other neighborhoods of the city can receive the Zona 30.
The project was presented to the Metropolitan Association of Cyclists of Greater Recife, who questioned whether the city is proposing bike routes considered less secure, as part of the promise of creating 70 kms of bike paths by 2016. “This is not the most important thing. We can do even more than the planned extension. The goal is to create a culture of sharing in places where it is not possible to put a bike lane or bike path,” Braga said.
Thinking of the Bairro do Recife as a lab, Porto Digital has invested in several projects with strong societal endorsement. First, there’s bicycle sharing which encourages mobility and reduces pollution. The initiative was so successful that the State government took upon itself the responsibility to enlarge the project. The next step for the technology center will be centered around sharing three cars that can carry up to four people each.
“The city, as an urban island, was chosen as a testing ground for our companies. When technologies are consolidated, they can get to market,” pointed out the director of Innovation and Competitiveness of Porto Digital, William Calhoun.”
Source (PT) Photos: Inês Campelo