Porto Alegre, Brazil: Fourth District

Harnessing the power of small business, education, and ICT to foster economic growth and revitalize a historic neighborhood

The capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and the country’s fourth largest metropolitan region, Porto Alegre is one of the great political, economic, and cultural centers of Brazil. Founded in 1772, the city’s indigenous population expanded through the centuries by welcoming immigrants from all over the world, making it a beacon of diversity within Latin America. Today, around 4.27M people make the metro region of Porto Alegre their home, but their experience within the city varies starkly, with luxury communities abutting others lacking basic sanitation. Resilient Porto Alegre is committed to ensuring that a city with so many contrasts is also a unified city, shared and enjoyed by all.

Project Background

Porto Alegre’s booming industrial sector first emerged in the 19th century, with new migrants flocking to the harborside zone of the city’s 892-hectare, centrally-located 4th District. But by the middle of the 20th century economic activity had shifted to new locations, and today the historic buildings and warehouses constructed during the district’s heyday have fallen largely into disrepair.

Though the district boasts a strong cultural identity and valuable location, residents suffer from urban blight, frequent flooding, crime, poverty, and limited economic opportunities in the formal economy.

But while these shocks and stresses may be felt acutely in the 4th District, they are not unique to it. The city has therefore identified the revitalization of the area as a top resilience priority, and a pilot project for future resilience building across Porto Alegre as a whole. The city envisions transforming the 4th District into an innovative ecosystem of private companies, educational institutions, public entities, and the local community, grounded in advanced ICT-capacities.

Project Resilience Value and Impact

The project will benefit the entire city, attracting new investment streams and developing new industries, diversifying the city’s economy and expanding its global connectivity, and creating new centers of coexistence for different groups.

The city is placing particular emphasis on ensuring that any economic development is inclusive of the district’s current residents, and that gentrification stresses are monitored and proactively addressed. Porto Alegre is also committed to leveraging the new development to the benefit of the city’s poor and vulnerable, particularly its disenfranchised youth, incorporating them into both the formal economy and the overall fabric of the community.

The city will measure the success of this project according to the number and diversity of new enterprises operating in the district, its demographic density, total tax collection rates, and whether other degraded areas of the city are able to successfully adopt the methods applied in the 4th District in turn. Finally, a key consideration will be the drainage needs of the area, given its high flood risk and currently inadequate sewage infrastructure. The city is committed to implementing bluegreen infrastructure and other sustainable techniques to live with water.

Project Status and Opportunity

The first phase of this project, the Master Plan for the district’s architecture, has already been developed in partnership with the City Hall of Port Alegre and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). The World Bank worked closely with the city to determine how to ameliorate flood risks in the poorest parts of the district. They are now supporting the city in assessing economic potential and developing the district’s Economic Plan.

Porto Alegre has already identified required upgrades to critical infrastructure and estimated their cost to be up to US$80 million. The city is working with the national Treasury Secretary to open the door for funding opportunities from the World Bank. The World Bank is already working with the city on preliminary studies, and have contracted Deloitte for support.

This comprehensive urban redevelopment project will offer opportunities for investments in housing, mobility, commercial facilities, and parks and public spaces. The city will be revising building and zoning codes, and scoping additional incentives and regulations required to create an enabling environment for growth and revitalization. They are currently identifying a pilot project site with land value capture potential, and anticipate an eventual acceleration of the real estate market as well as opportunities for innovative public-private partnerships.

For more information or to get involved: 
Rodrigo Corradi, Chief Resilience Officer | rodrigo@portoalegre.rs.gov.br