João Pessoa exemplifies some of the challenges faced by city centres when their raison d’etre is threatened by the exodus of more affluent residents, investors, tourists and in turn services and investment. Although the heritage and cultural value of the historic city centre remains significant, the absence of a clear consensus about how to utilise this value and incorporate it into a vibrant urban core is undermining the municipality’s efforts.
There are vigorous, competing interests in favour of future investment being made elsewhere. In João Pessoa this revolves around the development of tourism. The João Pessoa Sustainable Action Plan forms the basis for investment and rejuvenation of the historic core and traditional commercial hub, with its tourist significance being recognised by the city authorities, and with funds being spent refurbishing the main squares and the origin of the city at Porto do Capim. However, the economic importance of tourism and the desire to continue to attract visitors from across Brazil and overseas under the Tourist Plan means that much more investment is being made to support new building at the coast where the majority of hotels are located, close to the popular beaches at Tambau and Cabo Branco.
This case study also illustrates the complexity of balancing the needs of those already resident in the area and plans for rejuvenation and renewal. As part of this master plan for the whole the urban region, a number of projects have been identified to help bolster the traditional centre’s connections within the city’s tourism industry, its commercial development and its cultural context. These plan envisage reclaiming the riverfront to allow greater access to the area. Local opposition groups, especially amongst the communities that inhabit the area adjacent to the river, fear that revitalising the area will lead to gentrification as well as displacement. Finding ways to give a voice to its residents, and to incorporate the social and community networks that connect the communities to place, as well as address debates over the right to land, citizenship, and recognition of diversity, over land right have become embroiled in the process of development.
City centre transformation
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