The goal of the Porto Maravilha project is to revitalize Rio de Janeiro's Port Region and reintegrate it into the city. All urban infrastructure in the area is to be rebuilt and modernized and new, environmentally friendly buildings constructed. But a city is not only about infrastructure. Buildings are important in that they represent a place's memory. But first and foremost, a city is a place where its people make a way of life and shape their history. The Port Region is unique because it is home to great diversity. Each of its neighborhoods has its own lifestyle while also displaying the social, economic and political dynamics typical of Rio and Brazil. These places have marked the history of the Brazilian people from the outset of colonization till today. The Port Region offers striking examples of Rio de Janeiro's economic growth and of Brazil's as well. It is also the birthplace of symbols of our culture and has been stage to important struggles for social rights and freedom.

For Porto Maravilha, the challenge in transforming the Port Region will be to modernize the area while preserving its identity, construct new buildings in harmony with the area's rich architectural heritage and foster changes that will benefit the region's residents and visitors. To meet these challenges, Municipal Statute 101/2009, which created the Porto Maravilha project, stipulates that the government should undertake initiatives to bring both social and economic development to the public. The same legislation determines that local historical, artistic and cultural heritage - tangible and intangible - must be recovered and recognized.

To respond to this mission, CDURP - the agency responsible for Porto Maravilha - has created two programs: Porto Maravilha Cidadão and Porto Maravilha Cultural. Both are intended to link government action and private partnerships in order to stimulate and support initiatives that promote socioeconomic development for the public living in the region today, while celebrating the area's historical heritage. This strategy will also help to strengthen civil society in the area.

Porto Maravilha is changing the dynamics of the area. In addition to renewing urban infrastructure and creating a new land-use pattern, the project must successfully prepare people for the new jobs and business opportunities to come. These include possibilities involving cultural and artistic heritage, which inarguably is a draw for the area. Establishing a new standard of urban services will also demand new behaviors. This process will provide many lessons in how to promote a socially inclusive form of urban renewal from a social, economic and cultural perspective. Another essential task will be to encourage people to reflect on building the region's future.

The starting point is to identify existing initiatives. We also work with institutions and companies that have a presence in the area, or that would like to, through social responsibility programs. As complements to the Porto Maravilha project, the Porto Maravilha Cidadão and Porto Maravilha Cultural programs show that it is possible to recover degraded urban spaces to the benefit of the public and the city as a whole. Government, private enterprise and social organizations can come together to build a city that respects its history and environment and that treats all of its citizens ever more justly.

Alberto Silva, special advisor to the Office of the President of CDURP

Published in "Revista Porto Maravilha," no. 4, April 2011