The heart and soul of Rio de Janeiro

Leitura de 7min

Palco da história cultural e política do Rio de Janeiro, a Cinelândia é o grande ícone carioca.

Cinelândia is one of the great icons of Rio de Janeiro, a stage for much of the cultural and political history of the city that used to be the federal capital of Brazil. It’s also the leading symbol of the urban reform movement that transformed the city starting around the beginning of the 20th century. The name translates roughly as “Cinema Land”, because Cinelândia was home to the city’s greatest concentration of movie houses from the 1940s through the 1960s.

The area is an urban picture postcard, albeit one whose colors have faded somewhat because of the lack of security and care for the buildings through the last three decades. But now, at the start of the 21st century, Cinelândia is gaining new life. JLL has been part of this process, responsible for renting the newly-retrofitted Cine Vitória, a former movie house that is one of the area’s historic landmarks.

Opportunity makes history in Cinelândia

The Real Estate Investment Fund operated by Banco Opportunity, a bank, acquired the Cine Palácio (the first movie house in Rio de Janeiro to show a talking picture) and the neighboring vacant lot that served as parking for the Mesbla department store, plus another 17 two-story houses of no historic value. Listed as part of the city’s historic heritage, the movie house will be restored and incorporated into the new development now under construction. There will be entrances from Marrecas, Passeio and Evaristo da Veiga streets, all of which form part of the Cultural Corridor in the center of Rio de Janeiro.

The development includes a 17-story commercial complex with more than 100,000 square meters of built area, of which 70,000 square meters will be private area. Façades will be in smoked glass. There will be three levels of basement car parking offering more than 400 spaces and the ground floor will have shops. With work scheduled for completion in 2014, the project is being seen as the largest real estate event in Cinelândia since the 1950s.

“There will be a large business center with the three towers integrated on all floors, so permitting horizontal space occupation of up to 4,000 square meters,” said Jomar Monnerat de Carvalho, manager of the Banco Opportunity Real Estate Investment Fund.

Constructing a project of this magnitude in the center of Rio de Janeiro is a challenge, Carvalho said, but all due care is being taken – not least by obtaining LEED sustainability certification from the Green Building Council Brazil (GBC Brazil). “We are extremely demanding in terms of final quality, operational efficiency and the future satisfaction of occupants,” he said. “We are building a high-end corporate center that will offer major companies exactly what they need.”

New life in the center

The first attempt to redevelop Cinelândia came in 1980, but got nowhere. It was then resumed in 1996, since when the area has seen important changes. Homeless people have been removed and graffiti has been cleaned up. The region was given new Portuguese stone pavements and better street paving and lighting, while wheel-chair access ramps were repaired and trees were planted.

“The change in real estate standards in the city center have given rise to a strong trend for corporate occupation in the area, with the sale and retrofit of buildings that used to house the cinemas,” said Mônica Barg, Director of Rental at Jones Lang LaSalle in Rio. These developments are giving the empty buildings of Cinelândia back to the city, transformed into new space for high-quality occupation.

The Cine Vitória retrofit and the Grupo Opportunity development in Rua das Marrecas are two leading examples of the return of high-quality corporate buildings in the central region of the city.

Edifício Serrador, which now houses the EBX company, is another example of a retrofit that has given Cinelândia high-end corporate space.

The Vitória movie house

The Cine Vitória movie house is located in the Edifício Rivoli building, built in 1939. It is in the so-called ‘Quarteirão Serrador’ – literally, the “Serrador Block” – that used to house Cinelândia’s main theaters and movie houses. As the area fell into decay, so Cine Vitória lay abandoned for years, but the recent major retrofit project has now been completed.

The retrofit preserved the art deco façade, which was listed as part of the city’s cultural heritage. Inside, however, the building was fully modernized. The structure was modified to create new spaces and a new tower, allowing for the use of cutting-edge technology in the systems, equipment and elevators. The ground floor has a 200-seat theater and a Livraria Cultura book store that occupies 4,000 square meters. Upper floors have high-end corporate offices.

JLL was hired to handle the rental of the building, which belongs to the Creative Real Estate (CRE) group and the Banco Votorantim bank. “We are working to rent the floors to large companies,” said Barg.

The Cine Vitória retrofit was completed in early 2013 and expectations were for all spaces to be fully occupied within six months at an estimated rental price of R$120 per square meter, a value that reflects the extremely dynamic market in the region. “Cinelândia is today a highly desirable piece of real estate, thanks to its position at the entrance to the city center with very easy access and proximity to the Metrô (subway), the South Zone, the Santos Dumont Airport and Petrobras,” the Jones Lang LaSalle rental executive said.

Luiz Felipe Di Giorgio Mauad, the managing partner of Mauad Construtora, the company responsible for managing the design and work, said that “the Cine Vitória retrofit shows that the rational use of this kind of building can bring great benefits to Rio de Janeiro, principally in areas that lack the space to grow, where there is great potential for values to increase.”

Broadway in Brazil

Cinelândia is home to the most beautiful buildings, mansions and groups of houses in Rio de Janeiro, a true democracy of styles that run from colonial to neoclassical, from art nouveau to art deco. The story dates back to 1750 with the inauguration of the Ajuda Convent, the first building to be erected on a square that is now called Praça Marechal Floriano Peixoto, between Passeio and Evaristo da Veiga streets. The convent stood for 161 years, until it was demolished in 1911.

It was then that Cinelândia started to acquire its current layout, when Francisco Serrador – a Spaniard – bought the land. An idealist, Serrador visited the United States in 1922 and was struck by both Broadway and Hollywood. He decided to build a complex of movie houses in the area formerly occupied by the convent. The project started three years later and included movie houses, stores, bars, restaurants and even skating rinks.

By the 1940s there were no less than 11 movie houses and the region became known as Cinelândia, the “Brazilian Broadway”. Theaters, night clubs and casinos were also built, together with hotels that played host to grand parties and gala balls with the presence of famous Brazilian personalities, international music stars and Hollywood icons.

Seen as an architectural complex, Cinelândia contains jewels such as the National Library, one of the 10 best in the world, and the century-old Municipal Theater, recently retrofitted. The region is also home to the Cine Odeon, a movie house whose name passed into Brazilian popular cultural as a song title and is now a venue for debut performances and artistic events, and the Fine Arts Museum, whose collection originated in the paintings and objet d’art brought from Portugal in 1808 by Prince Regent João VI.

The Rio City Council Chamber still sits in Cinelândia in the Pedro Ernesto Palace, near the former Supreme Court building – now restored as a cultural center – and the former site of the Federal Senate in the Monroe Palace, demolished in 1976. It is, in short, a region steeped in Brazilian history.

Eclectic, Cinelândia remains a democratic arena and a lasting focus for Rio’s main artistic, political and social happenings.