The revitalisation of Sumidouro - Victor Civita Square

Icons use case study city info


São Paulo

Icons use case study main actors

Main actors

City Government, Regional Government, Supranational / Intergovernmental Institutions, Private Sector

Icons use case study project area

Project area

Neighborhood or district

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2006/09

The city of São Paulo has developed a successful brownfield project with a cultural heritage focus.

The city of São Paulo has a strong need for parks and public recreational spaces. At the same time there is a shortage of adequate spaces in the inner city, and the peri-urban areas are characterised by sprawl. Rehabilitating and developing abandoned post-industrial brownfields provides an alternative for many municipalities. This project covers 13,648 square metres of land that had been contaminated by heavy metals found in the soil and ground water and dioxins and furans were found in the main building. The project concept aimed to carryout environmental remediation work in the old central waste incinerator in order to build a recreational area for cultural and education activities including school visits, lectures and workshops, concerts, exhibitions, sports and community welfare programs.

Originally published by the International Community of Practice for Sustainable Urban Development CONNECTIVE CITIES:

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
São Paulo, Brazil

Size and population development
São Paulo has one of the world’s fastest-growing metropolitan populations. It is the most populous city in Brazil and the Southern Hemisphere. In 2017 population was estimated at 12,106,920.

Population composition
São Paulo is a multicultural city with approximately 2.3 million immigrants who arrived in the state between 1870 to 2010. Brazil has the largest Italian population outside Italy, with São Paulo being the most populous city with Italian ancestry in the world

Main functions
São Paulo city is the capital of São Paulo state, located in southeastern Brazil. It is an industrial center in Latin America. It exerts strong international influences in commerce, finance, arts and entertainment.

Main industries / business
São Paulo is the biggest financial center in Brazil and one of the biggest financial centers in the world

Political structure
The Executive Branch of the municipality of São Paulo is represented by the mayor and his cabinet of secretaries, following the model proposed by the Federal Constitution. The Legislative Power is represented by the Municipal Chamber, composed of 55 aldermen elected to four-year posts.

Administrative structure
The city is divided into into 32 subprefectures, sub-divided into 96 disctrics.

In urban centres, space is usually rare. Using it as green space or public recreational space has to compete with housing construction or other commercial interests. There are a relatively large number of abandoned post-industrial brownfield sites for project development available in São Paulo, which is why the conversion of brownfields is an important factor in gaining space. Revitalisation is often difficult, however, because the soil and groundwater are contaminated and the municipality does not have sufficient funds to rehabilitate and develop the land. This was the case at the site of the former waste incineration plant at Sumidouro. Contamination at the site was partly responsible for the devaluation of the surrounding area in the city, and posed a significant health risk for possible users of the site.

In 2006 a private investor became interested in developing the site of the former waste incineration plant at Sumidouro. The investor's plan was to upgrade the site’s image and attractiveness, as the company's headquarters is located nearby.


The project set out to revitalise the contaminated brownfield site on the basis of urban development and environmental criteria, and make it available for public use. A further aim is to improve the district, which would benefit local residents – who are also encouraged to be  involved in the project.

The rehabilitation and conversion of the site with the construction of buildings for sports, recreation and culture was implemented through a public-private partnership.

Thanks to cooperation between the various authorities, and pragmatic solutions for implementation of the rehabilitation plan, approval and implementation processes were expedited and costs limited. The flue contaminated with dioxins and furans, for instance, was enclosed by a structure, contaminated walls were cleaned, wells and drainage pipes were sealed, the top layer of soil (which was contaminated with heavy metals) was replaced, and a wooden terrace was built over the soil to prevent direct contact with or inhalation of contaminated materials.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) provided technical and methodical support in designing and implementing the rehabilitation plan, and supported coordination of the public and private actors and implementation of the various steps in the process. For instance, it supported the risk assessment and the integration of the rehabilitation work into the planning of the architectural aspects of the project.

At the same time, public support for the project was mobilised through targeted awareness-raising activities. A logo was created, a website was launched and the project was publicised through cultural projects such as musical and theatrical events. 

The Victor Civita Square offers free activities on a daily basis. They can include:

  • Concerts
  • Sport activities
  • Cultural workshops
  • Green space (with 80 trees)
  • Environmental education activities
  • Activities to encourage reading
  • 700-meter walking track
  • Dance and theater presentations
  • Vegetable-garden
  • Day activity center for the elderly
  • Museum of Sustainability
  • Lectures and talks
  • Art exhibitions

The rehabilitation and development of the site was financed by the private investor and main user, as well as other private sponsors, for a total cost of approximately  BRL$6million (ca. USD 1,5million). The public-private partnership agreement between the municipality of São Paulo and private investors facilitated granted them access to a lease. The municipality provided the site. The GIZ provided methodical and technical support for the rehabilitation of the contaminated site. GIZ also supported the management of the process and acted as facilitator and technical consultant for the soil and groundwater cleanup.

Other public stakeholders include the municipal environment department, in charge of the elaboration and monitoring of the remediation and revitalization plans, and the state environmental agency (CETESB), in charge of licensing, establishing remedial goals and supporting investigation, logistics and technology developments. 

The project had various positive effects from which the municipality, local residents and the private investor profited. First of all a public recreational space was created that included rooms for events and an industrial museum. This enhanced both the site and the district, and benefited the local inhabitants.

At the same time the environmental and health risks caused by the contamination of the site were eliminated or significantly reduced. Innovative approaches and methods were tested and developed as part of the process. A flagship project was thus created that raised the public profile of the municipality and the investor, and enhanced their image.

The current economic situation of the city of São Paulo means that conditions for maintaining activities in the project have taken a turn for the worse. The municipality is currently seeking fresh options for guaranteeing the sustainability of the project.

In the final analysis, a combination of factors made the project model of rehabilitating the Sumidouro site a success.

First of all the private investor and the municipality shared a common goal in developing the project. The various interest groups, different levels of the state, and private and public actors worked together efficiently and effectively to implement the project.

The project was also implemented within an enabling environment. This comprised strategic directives and tools for urban development, binding planning tools and a strong demand among the population for recreational space in the district concerned. The support provided by the GIZ also facilitated the implementation process and the development of environmentally sound options for rehabilitation.

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Connective Cities
Bonn, Germany

Connective Cities

Institution | International Community of Practice for Sustainable Urban Develop­ment

Andreas Marker
São Paulo, Brazil

Andreas Marker

Individual | geoscientist

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