In the center of Porto Alegre is located an important and recognized postcard of the state, the Cais Mauá, along with its large warehouses. Listed as national and municipal historical heritage, the Pier completes its centenary this year.
With just over three kilometers in front of the waters of the Guaíba, in the center of the state capital, it is located in an increasingly coveted region of the city. Closed for free circulation to the public in 2010, its area was granted for private exploration. Over the years, Cais oscillates between abandonment and increased commercial interest.
Inaugurated in 1921, the Wharf is 3,240m long and about 187 thousand m². The port activities ended in 2005. The responsibility for their management, use and preservation rests with the state government.
According to what our report found, this responsibility has been shared with the municipal administrations of the city of Porto Alegre.
Concession for the private sector closed the Wharf
In 2010, Cais Mauá do Brasil won the concession to explore the site for 25 years. As raised by journalists Naira Hofmeister, Elmar Bones and Patrícia Marini, especially from the newspaper Já, in 2019, the company promised to invest R$ 500 million to implement in four years a new business and commercial hub in the area of the former port of the Capital.
With the resources of commercial and real estate exploration, the restoration of the assets listed by the patrimony would be paid. Without starting the works and after several infractions committed by the company, Governor Eduardo Leite (PSDB) terminated the contract with the company last year.
In January of this year, the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) and the Government of the State of Rio Grande do Sul signed a contract to carry out studies that will define the new model for the revitalization of the Mauá Wharf. The project is currently in the hands of the Revitaliza Consortium, responsible for managing the work.
According to Juliano Greve, coordinator of the Cais Mauá Revitalization Project, the modeling is in its initial phase, in which the consultants are collecting information and suggestions from various groups in society to identify the best destination for the area. It has not yet been decided what will work at the site.
In an interview with the Porto Alegre Trade Association, the extraordinary secretary of Partnerships of RS, Leonardo Busatto, stated that the development of Cais Mauá will be through the use of the population, entrepreneurs and the implementation of creative economy activities in this large area of the city.
Without commenting on the amount of investment that has been made, he just said that studies are evaluating and budgeting the possible amounts of investment needed.
The coordinator of the Parliamentary Front of Cais do Porto, Porto Alegre councilor Leonel Radde (PT), says that he is not opposed to public-private partnerships at some point working with Cais, as it is a considerable area that needs investments in infrastructure .
However, he stresses that these initiatives should never impede access to space or withdraw public control over those properties. “Today, the Wharf is handed over to a privatist logic, causing it to be degraded so that it can then be offered solutions led by the private sector, which restricts access to a prime space for those who have the resources to access a formerly public space” , emphasizes the councilor.
As the parliamentarian emphasizes, the city must be accessible to all individuals, who can enjoy its spaces and its natural and cultural assets, exactly the opposite of what has been happening in Porto Alegre.
“To guarantee a Wharf for everyone, we must demonstrate that the Wharf belongs to the population of Porto Alegre and that the public authorities must promote so that cultural and economic alternatives are put into practice in that space, without excluding its access”, he explains.
Space focused on culture and leisure becomes increasingly commercial
Cais and its warehouses, on several occasions, were the stage for cultural events. Among them the Mercosur Biennial, the Book Fair and the World Social Forum.
As pointed out by the president of the Institute of Architects of Brazil – RS (IABRS), Rafael Pavan dos Passos, the Wharf had a vitality. Although restricted to events, it had been consolidating itself as a space for culture.
“Suddenly a project emerges that takes this Pier to the idea of a large open-air mall, which would be the warehouses themselves, a large mall next to the Gasometer and the commercial towers on the other side, and only two warehouses for the use of culture ”, points out Rafael.
The architect also claims that today’s Wharf no longer attends to cultural issues, which in theory could be being asked. To get an idea, between the years 2005 to 2012, the Porto Alegre Book Fair, due to its expansion, occupied a part of the Wharf. With the closure for revitalization, nothing else happened.
For the lawyer and activist for the cause of cultural heritage Jacqueline Custódio, the contract signed with the private consortium should have guarantees to maintain and recover the warehouses.
“Our postcard is for a birthday, it is now a centenary gentleman. It had times of glory and, since the 1980s, its decline began. For port activities, time is up; but not for the city’s delight”, he points out.
According to the lawyer, there were several attempts to recover popular activities on the Wharf, but they did not materialize. The most recent of these attempts, he reports, was the one under the responsibility of the Cais Mauá do Brasil consortium, which closed the site and contributed to the sorry state it is in.
In Jacqueline’s assessment, before the revitalization process that closed the Pier, people could enjoy the site, sit on the edge of the Guaíba river for a chimarrão and enjoy it, without having to pay for it.
“However, more than 10 years have passed and the scenario has only gotten worse. Access remains restricted and the warehouses have many important breakdowns. The project to ‘take it back’ now brings the possibility of dividing the space and selling the lots to the private sector, with the possibility of building residential buildings. This is the pier we have today”, he criticizes.
As the architect Rafael explains, both the Cais Mauá Brasil project and the current project maintain the idea of the “Embarcadero”. According to Rafael, this is a simple and questionable project in some aspects, from the point of view of its relationship with heritage.
“It is a Wharf that is still far from returning to the population and the city as a cultural space, a leisure space. I see a project that is more concerned with maximizing private income than actually bringing the public interest and the vocation of culture and leisure”, he points out.
Embarcadero does not return the Wharf to the population
In May this year, the Embarcadero Wharf was inaugurated, the first intervention made possible in an area of 181 hectares. It is located at the junction of the Usina do Gasômetro with the Cais Mauá. The place has 14 restaurants and, due to the pandemic, has been operating with restrictions and under reservation.
Asked about Embarcadero, Rafael Passos points out that it is necessary to see how the project will look as a whole. But he emphasizes that this model does provoke a distancing of sectors of the population.
“The poorest, because of embarrassment, many times [são afastados]. Also, because they are in a place where you can only consume, when you are there just to contemplate. There is this segregation, the capacity for consumption to be a divider between who will sit there on a stool and enjoy the view and who can sit in the ‘box’, let’s say,” explains Rafael.
He also states that this type of construction model contributes to a city project that excludes and widens social differences. Unlike what would be a public square, for example, which ends up bringing some idea of equality.
Attorney Jacqueline argues in a similar sense, speaking of a “gourmetization” process. The expression is used when there is a movement to exclude the poorest people from a certain place.
The activist claims that the inauguration of the Embarcadero Wharf is a sign of the political will to “gourmetize” the Wharf.
“After years of abandonment under the responsibility of the state government, a group of businessmen divided Armazém A7, that warehouse closest to the Usina do Gasômetro. Without bidding, which is mandatory, bars, restaurants and shops occupied part of the Wharf, becoming a place of high consumption and guarded by security guards, who often prevent the entry of people who do not have reservations in one of the establishments”, he reports The lawyer.
The main quality of the Cais region, which is the proximity to Guaíba, ends up being restricted to those who go to restaurants and bars.
As a counterpoint, part of the cultural community and residents of the Historic Center work on an occupation proposal, including a creative and solidary economy, with a view to economic sustainability and universal access, preserving the cultural heritage and landscape.
What does the region need to be given back to the population?
For the architect Rafael, the important thing would be to guarantee the city’s integration and that it can balance private and public interests, in an idea of a democratic space that favors the presence of the popular layers, the majority of the population. He claims that, unfortunately, he has observed just the opposite.
“These administrations have served less as a power capable of mediating conflicts and seeking balance, and more as an advocacy for the interests of an ever greater concentration of income”, explains Rafael.
For the president of IABRS, the management of the Wharf contributes to an inequality in the use of the city’s space.
Attorney Jacqueline also calls for a more egalitarian occupation of the region. For her, the Wharf is an affective asset of the population. “In addition to being one of the most outstanding postcards in the state, the Wharf brings a sentimental character, in which memory and imagination build ties.”
“The wharf is a public asset and a cultural diffusion point, a national and international reference for equipment that is both economically and environmentally sustainable”, says Jacqueline.
Concluding her testimony to our report, she also remembers that the enjoyment of these characteristics of the region are part of the so-called “right to the city”. In other words, the population’s right to participate in spaces and decisions about it.
“To guarantee this right, the public power should guarantee direct and effective participation in decisions about this important public space, as well as universal and democratic access to all citizens, whether Porto Alegre or not”, he concludes.
Pier and Gasometro suffer in the dispute for the edge
At the Public Hearing: Real estate developments around Beira Rio, held on August 17, O Brasil de Fato questioned councilor Radde about the fate of the Usina do Gasômetro. In addition to the problem related to the possible loss of the building with the privatization of Eletrobras, the population also suffers from the abandonment of the site.
According to the councilor, the Gasometer also represents another chapter in the dispute for the Orla de Porto Alegre, against its total privatization.
“Like the Warehouses [do Cais], which have been degraded, the Gasometer goes through the same process, as this allows large business solutions to be naturally digested by the population that yearns for new living spaces, however, it receives in return an almost absolute exclusion of access if it does not have financial resources,” says Radde.
On September 4, Coletivo Cais Cultural Já! will promote a procession with artistic presentations and guidelines for the revitalization of the Porto Pier. He will leave at 3 pm from the Public Market.
Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul
Edition: Marcelo Ferreira