Porto Maravilha Urban Operation

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Rio De Janeiro

Icons use case study main actors

Main actors

City Government, Private Sector, other

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Project area

Neighborhood or district

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2009/07

The project's goal is to establish a new standard of occupation for the waterfront area of Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro’s waterfront region is one of the city’s oldest urbanized areas. Its strategic location has played a fundamental role in the city’s economic and social development. However, in the last decades, the impacts of new trends in industry and the modernization of maritime transportation, as well as an economic downturn, led the Port area into a decline process.

The Porto Maravilha Urban Operation’s goal is to establish a new standard of occupation for the waterfront area of Rio de Janeiro, changing its stigma. It aims at providing Rio with a vibrant city center, where a sustainable urbanized area and a modern multimodal transportation system will blend with the region’s historical and architectural heritage.

The project is also based on real estate development with emphasis on socio-economic development and social inclusion, in order to mitigate the gentrification process. All interventions in the port area follow principles of integrity, sustainability, social inclusion and social development. Moreover, the Porto Maravilha Operation established an innovative financial model of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to ensure the project´s implementation in partnership with the private sector.

Sustainable Development Goals

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Metropolis Award

This project was awarded the 'Metropolis Award' in 2014 in the following category: 2nd Prize.

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Size and population development
2011: 11,960,000; 1990: 9,595,000: 2025: 13,621,000; 2010-2015: +0,85% / year

Population composition
ethnic diversity with many different communities ; 25% of the population is aged under 18

Main functions
second industrial, service and financial centre in the country after Sao Paulo. tourism hub

Main industries / business
trade, tourism, services, industries (chemicals, pharmaceutics, petroleum products, metal products, textiles)

Political structure
Prefect who has municipal executive power and is directly elected by a two-round majority system and the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Chamber which has legislative power

Administrative structure
1 Municipality (Prefeitura), 19 Sub-prefectures (subprefeituras), 34 Administrative Regions

Rio de Janeiro’s waterfront region is one of the city’s oldest urbanized areas. Its strategic location has played a fundamental role in the city’s economic and social development. However, the modernization of maritime transportation led the region to a decline process. The introduction of containers and new technologies changed the ports’ necessary infrastructure. For instance, the warehouses lost their importance and were unused. The local economy was harmed. Additionally, the construction of the Perimetral Elevated Highway segregated the area into a passageway with little commercial or residential use. Aiming to revert this situation, the Municipality developed the Porto Maravilha Urban Operation.

The project covers a total area of 5 million m², where 32,000 people reside (2012). One important goal is to increase the residential population of the region from 32,000 to 100,000 dwellers in 10 years, as well as to improve the quality of public services offered in the area.

The main urban challenges identified were the need for investments in public transportation, the low green area cover (only 2,5%), the chronic floods in some sectors, the outdated garbage collection and sanitation systems, as well as the necessity for architectural heritage preservation. Thus, sustainable measures will increase the green area cover from 2,5% to 11%, improving the soil permeability. Also, water, air and noise pollution will be drastically reduced. Moreover, the establishment of a new mobility system that prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists and sustainable public transportation are going to increase the traffic flow capacity. Because of its strategic location, the port region has a high development potential. It is one of the convergence points for transportation in Rio. It is aimed to increase the traffic flow by 50%. 

In 2009, the Rio de Janeiro Port Region Urban Development Company (CDURP) was created. Its function is to promote the urban renovation of the waterfront, aiming to improve its current and future dwellers’ quality of life, and foster the region’s sustainable development. It oversees the activities of Porto Novo Concessionary, which executes the entire project. A single legal and funding framework was created, mixing public policy and market tools. It involves a unique Public-Private Partnership (PPP), the biggest being carried out in Brazil.

The project was developed in two phases.

First phase: “Change is on the way!”

The first one focused on infrastructure works, such as renewed sewage, drinking-water networks, telecommunications and street lighting public networks. In order to solve flooding problems, new water galleries were installed taking into account rising sea levels in the near future. Also in the first phase, the municipal government started the construction of the Rio Museum of Art (MAR), inaugurated on March 1, 2013.

Second phase: “Urbanize the region 2012-2016”

The second phase focus is on a new urban mobility model that prioritizes pedestrians and public transportation. The main works are the construction of the Binário Avenue, of an Underground Express Highway and the construction of 28 km of the Light Rail Transit Lane (LRT). These transformations are expected to result in the repopulation of the area, from 32.000 to 100.000 residents in 10 years, as well as to improve the quality of public services offered in the area. Sustainable measures will increase the green area cover from 2.5% to 11%, improving the soil permeability. Furthermore, water, air and noise pollution will be drastically reduced. Moreover, the establishment of a new mobility system that prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists and sustainable public transportation are going to increase the traffic flow capacity. The Porto Maravilha Urban Operation also benefits the whole city of Rio, mainly the neighborhood nearby the downtown area, such as Ilha do Fundão neighborhood. The infrastructure changes in the city enable the creation of an innovative and high technology area in that area: the High Technology Park of the Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ).

Main achievements of the program include:

(1) the construction of 4 km of tunnels, enabling more public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists;

(2) the reconstruction of 700 km in public networks for sanitation, sewage and drainage;

It is also important to mention that the city is creating a new fiber-optic communication network to be implemented as part of the underground reorganization of the waterfront area. This technology will provide the region with high quality telephone, internet and multimedia services. The minimum internet speed for the residents and enterprises in the area will be of approximately 1 Gigabyte (GB) and, in 10 years, it is expected to increase to 10 GB. The port area will have the best internet connection in Latin America. The region and the City of Rio will become a digital district of high connectivity. It will mean a great difference in the life of the cariocas, especially those that live in the region, since some neighborhoods do not have access to quality high-speed internet nor cable TV.

(3) the renovation of 70 km of streets and 650,000 m² of sidewalks;

(4) the construction of 17 km of bicycle paths;

(5) the planting of 15,000 trees;

(6) the demolition of 4,8 km of the Perimetral Elevated Highway to be replaced by a new route (Binário Avenue) and 4 km of tunnels, increasing in 30% the traffic capacity;

(7) investments in public transportation: construction of 28 km of Light Rail Transit (LRT), connected to the intermodal public transportation system (Bus Rapid Transit -BRT, urban trains, bus networks and subway lines);

(8) the improvement of the local drainage capacity and its adaptation to rising sea levels;

(9) the construction of museums, such as the Rio Museum of Art (MAR, in the Portuguese acronym), inaugurated in March 2013 and the Museum of Tomorrow;

(10) restoration of the historic and architectural heritage of the Port Region to be used as sociocultural public spaces such as Gamboa Warehouses, José Bonifácio Cultural Center and São Francisco da Prainha Church, besides the Dom João Palace, recovered to compose the Rio Museum of Art;

The Porto Maravilha CulturalProject celebrates the region’s heritage, creates new artistic and scientific museums as well as stimulates cultural activities, nurturing all types of artistic expressions. The heritage relevance of the waterfront area is also considered as a potential generator of employment and income. As far as the recognition, preservation and promotion of the region’s important historical value, the actions include restoration and rehabilitation of historical buildings, creating cultural circuits.

(11) the economic and social development of the Port Region through professional training and incentives for new entrepreneurs to employ residents;

The main ongoing projects are: professional capacity building (130 training courses already in activity), including training for micro and small enterprises. Furthermore, Porto Maravilha Cidadão Project publicizes employment opportunities in the area and incentives companies to hire local workers.

(12) the support to micro and small entrepreneurs with consulting services and business fairs aimed at strengthening the local business to assure their permanence in the region.

The Porto Maravilha Cidadão Project (Porto Maravilha Citizen, in English), created in partnership with other government agencies and social organizations, involves socioeconomic initiatives and housing programs. An important aspect related to the transformation of the waterfront area is the integration of the port region to the city downtown area through economic, social and cultural aspects and activities.

The project also includes a social housing program in partnership with the Municipal Housing Department, with 535 completed units. There are at least another 2,000 housing units for low-income family planned for the port region and residents living in areas without basic infrastructure.

Sustainable standards were also determined for the new buildings in the region, such as:

(1) adequate ventilation space between the buildings;

(2) decrease in the waste of clean water and a higher use of pluvial water;

(3) local generation of energy through solar power, and saving of clean energy;

(4) use of green roofs and reflective surfaces for solar light reflection;

(5) maximum ventilation and daylight;

(6) use of environmental and sustainable certified material;

(7) facilitation of use and bike access to the area.

Moreover, this program aims to enhance the dialogue between the local dwellers, local civil society and the municipal government. By doing so, the already existing community organizations may be strengthened as political channels. These organizations, acting as accountability mechanisms, create opportunities for citizens’ interests and their engagement in urban interventions. A total of R$ 2 million (approximately US$ 833,000) has already been invested in local organizations. 

The Porto Maravilha Operation established an innovative financial model of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to ensure the project´s implementation in partnership with the private sector. It consists of three main tools:

1. City Hall approved a new law (101/2009) to modify the previous limit set on the height of new buildings to be constructed in the area of the Porto Maravilha project in order to attract enterprises and assure investments for infrastructure works and services for a period of 15 years.

2. The right to build additional floors may be purchased, constituting a funding mechanism for the project. These are the Certificates of Additional Construction Potential (CEPACs), which are required for each floor to be built, up to the height limit stipulated for each different area of the project. The funds raised by CEPAC sales finance all Porto Maravilha´s public infrastructure works and services. The amount of CEPACs available for building ventures varies according to its location and the type of use. Fewer certificates are necessary for residential properties than for nonresidential ones, which encourage the area´s mixed occupation.

3. The Real Estate Trust Fund is constituted by the money raised from the CEPAC sales. Caixa Econômica Federal Bank, a state-owned financial institution, bought all the CEPACs in June 2011 for R$ 3.5 billion (approximately US$ 1.53 billion). The creation of this fund increases the diversity of investors in the project, reducing the possibility of dependency on big groups and investors. Caixa Econômica Federal Bank sells the bonds, at a profit, to real estate developers for the construction of commercial and residential buildings in the project’s area. The resources for it came from the Fundo de Garantia por Tempo de Serviço (FGTS), a federal fund created by a mandatory monthly deposit of 8% of every employee’s salary.

Since its beginning, the operation acquired credibility and the urban revitalization attracted real estate development. The funds raised by the sale of CEPACs account for all the works and public services. Consequently, it generates new opportunities for socio-economic development.

From 2009 to 2012, City Hall invested more than R$ 150 million (approximately US$ 60 million), to revitalize three of the region’s neighborhoods, covering 350,000 m². This was important to portray the municipal government’s commitment to the port region’s revitalization. 

The project´s works and plans are on time. The first phase was concluded in 2012. It focused mainly on infrastructural reforms such as re-urbanization of streets, improvement of local drainage capacity and sewage galleries, as well as telecommunication systems and lighting networks (totalizing 46.1 km in subterranean galleries). The Rio Museum of Art (MAR) construction was finished and nowadays is the most visited museum in Brazil. It was inaugurated on 1st March, 2013 during the city´s anniversary;

The second phase was initiated in 2011. In this phase, more than 50% of the Perimetral Highway has already been demolished and the Binário Avenue tunnels (inaugurated on 2nd November 2013) were also finished in 2014. The main actions are related to the necessary infrastructure for the new mobility hub to be implemented.

The ongoing transformation in Rio is consolidating the City as an attractive business and development research center, enabling access to academic and scientific research, as well as qualified professionals for the private sector. In addition, the revitalization of the port area in Rio de Janeiro will reintegrate it with the city center as an example of sustainable urban development and productive social inclusion. Enhancing the value of the patrimony and the implementation of new cultural facilities will make it one of the most attractive areas of the city. The region will become a reference for the city in quality of life for residents, workers and visitors.

The main innovation of the Porto Maravilha Operation is its financial model. It results from the innovative ensemble of many successful urban governance and mechanisms. The Brazilian City Statute foresees the creation of urban operations public private partnerships by municipalities for the recovery of degraded areas.

In the case of Rio, unlike other projects in Brazil, City Hall chose to sell all CEPACs in a single share, ensuring that all resources were available before the beginning of the Urban Operation. The concession also comprises the management of all public services in the region until 2026 (as traffic control, waste collection, public lighting, roads and public spaces maintenance) – most PPPs generally refer exclusively to construction works.

The Porto Maravilha legal framework is based on national and municipal laws. Innovative strategies such as the multi modal urban mobility and the Porto Maravilha financial model can be adapted and replicated taking into account each city’s specific characteristics and legislation.

Some of the key aspects to consider are: land regulation, urban occupation rules and market conditions, as well as the interest for investment in the target area. 

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Camille Toggenburger
Berlin, Germany

Camille Toggenburger

Individual | Community and Content Manager | urban sustainability exchange

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