Rio de Janeiro
Bringing Back Rio’s Centro
Centro, the historic heart of Rio, had fallen into serious disrepair, and Bloomberg Associates was asked to come up with a plan to revitalize it.
Centro is one of the crown jewels of Rio, and its historic heart. The revitalization of Centro is critical to the success of Rio’s entire Downtown and to the city as a whole.
Amanda Burden, Bloomberg Associates
Centro is the historic heart and business center of Rio de Janeiro, encompassing more than 200 prime blocks in the core of the city and featuring beautiful historic buildings, museums, public spaces, public transit, and walkable streets. Despite its many assets, Centro has suffered from decades of neglect and disinvestment. With so few people living in Centro, the area was deserted in the evenings and on the weekends. Broken and missing streetlights and a scarcity of police officers made its streets dark and dangerous. Sidewalks were in disrepair and trees and public spaces were unkempt, contributing to a general sense of disorder in the area. A large percentage of its beautiful historic buildings lay vacant. The urgency of transforming Centro before the 2016 Summer Olympics was championed by Mayor Eduardo Paes, who asked Bloomberg Associates to assist in addressing this problem with the help of the Rio Heritage Institute of Humanity (IRPH).
After extensive site analysis, on-the-ground visits, and interviews with local stakeholders, Bloomberg Associates presented a set of recommendations to the City and Mayor. Mayor Paes immediately accepted the recommendations and Centro para Todos was created. This highly strategic interagency program would make Centro a cleaner, safer, well-lit and more orderly area by 2016, setting the stage for private investment and residential development. Tactical actions were allocated among 12 city agencies, and divided into two work groups: (1) Operational: responsible for on-the-ground improvements, and (2) Institutional: responsible for policies and strategies to unlock private investment.
Bloomberg Associates worked with IRPH to determine desired outcomes and define metrics which would be measured and reported weekly by both the Operational and Institutional teams. At the start of each month, agency heads would walk in the designated areas during the day and in the evening to map every single issue in Centro, and identify next steps. Agencies would then send action plans within one week to IRPH and start on-the-ground improvements. A newsletter was created by Bloomberg Associates and then updated and distributed by IRPH to Mayor Paes and all the agencies involved in the work on a weekly basis. The newsletters included pictures, highlights of achievements, and problems identified by IRPH on its monitoring tours.
The operational efforts of Centro para Todos resulted in 150 blocks of repaved and repaired sidewalks, the doubling of police patrols, the increase of lighting levels by 77%, and two new spaces opened to the public. The institutional efforts of Centro para Todos brought about the creation of a new interagency committee that streamlined the permit process for investors seeking to rehabilitate historic properties, as well as the creation of a new task force to map vacant and underutilized properties and resolve issues with property titles. More than 5,000 vacant properties were catalogued to make it easier for investors to identify development opportunities. To ensure that Centro would be maintained over the long-term, the team worked to set up the first Business Improvement District in Brazil, and establish a network of cultural institutions to align and promote cultural activities in Centro.