Q&A Dr. Carlos Carvalho - President of Carvalho Hosken
The Report Company: You have been labelled a ‘visionary’ and ‘the owner of Barra’. What did you find in that part of Rio that convinced you to invest so much there?
Carlos Carvalho: When I first made the decision to invest in Barra, Rio de Janeiro was no longer Brazil’s capital city but Brasilia was still incipient, so Rio remained at the centre of the country. At that time, the Carvalho Hosken company noted that the city, because of the Tijuca highlands, was split into two with one half facing the sea and the other facing inland. It was the South Zone, that is, the one facing the sea, which became the most desirable.
Rio is blessed but it grew in a disorganised way with a chaotic city centre. Privileged spaces were awfully occupied. The Copacabana Palace, for example, sits side by side with large apartment buildings. There was a lack of political vision and experience, which, as far as I’m concerned, only started to change in 1969 under Negrao de Lima. That year, city planner Lucio Costa presented a proposal for the city saying that it had erroneously grown at its tip towards Leblon and that it should in fact grow to the west.
Because of its natural beauty, landscape and architecture Rio stood out in the world as a beautiful city, but the space was limited. Taking the north/south divide at the Tijuca hills into account, from Castelo to Leblon there are only 25 million square metres of available land. To the west of that, the pilot plan consists of 135 million square metres.
TRC: When you sold all your businesses and decided to invest everything in Barra, did you think of it as a gamble?
CC: I wasn't gambling. I had the capital and the construction company was well established, I had experience as a building contractor, I knew the National Housing Bank (BNH) and I knew the problems with housing. You have to use what you have learned, and interpret what lies ahead.
The BNH collected eight percent of all salaries, and its capital grew exponentially every month. The money was primarily used in housing when there was a huge deficit and no scheme in place. We analysed the city and concluded that as it was saturated the solution was to grow to the west and from there onwards, from Barra to Recreio and on to Santa Cruz.
There are more hills beyond that, after which there is a large, dense population of around 3.6 million people in the periphery. All these people routinely travel to the tip of the city to work. Lucio Costa, with Negrao de Lima’s approval, produced a plan for Jacarepagua. I was born and raised there so knew the place well and knew that it was similar to the most sought-after parts of the city with its beaches and lagoons. With the South Zone saturated, the obvious choice was to expand toward Barra. Soon afterward, the tunnels and bridges were built, and I decided to gather as much as possible and invest it here, using the BNH.
TRC: But you couldn't have anticipated that there would be an Olympic Games coming to Rio?
CC: I became a large urban landowner – I saved up and I believed in Barra, and bought beautiful land. Barra started developing but around 1986, inflation created an imbalance in the market. The land stood still for 15 to 20 years and I had to be patient, slowly developing the more desirable areas. The process was intuitive, as Rio moving westwards to Santa Cruz will be. There is still a lot to develop in Barra, but there is not as much room there as might at first seem. What is left to develop will be determined by the city itself. Barra became a residential area, but one with 130 million square metres of land that will develop as an independent city.
As for the Olympic Games, the trend is to leave a legacy. In London, the organisers found a socially underprivileged area and regenerated it, investing more than £1billion to clear the area and settle the ground. They created housing projects that were compatible with their culture and standards. The goal was social. By contrast, all the people of Rio - rich or poor - need a legacy to fix the mistakes that were made in urban development in the past; it is wrong for the centre of the city to be where it is, it should be in Barra.
TRC: You effectively invented a new lifestyle for Rio.
CC: There have been some curious experiments in Rio, dreams that came true. Peninsula (Carvalho Hosken's Barra condominium with approximately 28,000 residents), for example, is slightly smaller than Leblon and its past experiences were applied there. The problem with the ‘old city’ is its maintenance and safety. Rio’s parks and gardens are dangerous, nothing like those in Paris or London. In Barra we created a Homeowners Association and established a system whereby, independent of the land tax, you have to contribute to the cleaning rather than leaving it to the council.
TRC: During Rio+20, President Dilma announced that Banco do Brasil had loaned the government R$3.6billion. In times of crisis, is it necessary to show that there is still money available to invest and grow?
CC: In 2008, Rio's income was below R$10 billion, today it is more than R$20 billion. Rio's classification internationally is as good as that of the Federal government and things should and will happen in Barra. It is, as Lucio Costa called it, the ‘Metropolitan Centre’. The Transwestern corridor will accelerate the commute of both the rich and poor and connect the Fluminense lowlands. These people live more than 20 kilometres away but will be able to get there via the Transcarioca, Transolympic and Transwestern BRT corridors, as well as the current Linha Amarelha highway.
After 2016, people will be surprised by the speed with which things will happen. The Transwestern went from 165 to 1,680 cars per hour in the first week alone. Now, imagine a straight line, via tunnels, connecting Barra to the North Zone, avoiding favelas and maintaining the exclusivity of the area. All we need now are the icons, the culture and good hotels like the Hyatt.
The Olympic Games brought about the planning for such connections, which solves the fundamental problem. We were growing inwards, and without the capacity to do so because of a lack of infrastructure. In Barra, for example, water shortages are a problem. The lagoons may now be polluted, but will be cleaned up because of the Olympics. The electricity company is investing heavily to increase the provision of power to Barra to avoid shortages. The mayor Eduardo Paes is a smart man, and he knows that Barra is the solution for Rio but, politically, he must take care of the port. The public sector didn’t invest much in Barra. Everything here was made by the private sector.