The adoption of plazas and parks in Fortaleza, Brazil provides hope for creating new uses of public space, but the program still faces challenges.
The program renews more than just the urban scenery - it gives Fortaleza a breath of fresh air. Nevertheless, the program still faces difficulty attracting participants in the peripheral areas of the Capital.
“My god” remarks Sheldon Silva Carvalho, a 24 year old personal trainer, while remembering how Barbara de Alencar square appeared months ago. The space, located on Heraclitus Grace Avenue, was "dangerous," he says. "It had no space for leisure." In February, however, a new square appeared. Adopted through the Adoption of Squares and Green Areas Program, an initiative of the City of Fortaleza, the square gained greater accessibility, sports courts, and was utilized more frequently by the community. The square’s basketball court is where Sheldon usually goes during his breaks from work. The now daily occurrence of the coming and going of people has erased the fear that was imposed on the place before. The square was reborn.
This type of revitalization has occurred in many of the adopted areas in the city. The adopted places lose the stigma of being abandoned and have contributed to a new pace of life within the hectic city. According to the Department of Urban and Environmental Affairs (SEUMA), the program includes 163 parks and green spaces in the capital. Thirty-three have already been adopted and 130 are in the final process of adoption. Civil society organizations, individuals, neighborhood associations, businesses, public bodies and private enterprises may voluntarily adopt squares, parks, gardens and medians.
"The program has transformed many spaces," says Secretary Agueda Muniz, "people have returned to using public spaces and there is a greater sense of community in Fortaleza." “The contemporary city is one where the society and the government work together for the well being of the community," Muniz believes.
“It is challenging, however, to make the adoption program extend to areas outside the center of Region II,” says the secretary. It is important and necessary to give due attention to the peripheral areas of the city, like the neighborhoods Conjunto Ceará, Barra do Ceará, Canindezinho, Ancuri and Round Pond, which have large urban public spaces such as parks and soccer fields," acknowledges Agueda. The city is taking measures to publicize the program and spread awareness of potential adopters of the public spaces and parks.
Angelo Serpa, Professor of Human Geography at the Federal University of Bahia (UFB), argues that there is a need for a better approach to appeal to government entities and neighborhood merchants for participation in the Adoption of Squares and Green Areas Program. “In those neighborhoods, with rising incomes, businesses are doing well. However, they (business owners) are not interested (in the program) because there is no strategy to get closer to them. Businesses are looking to adopt spaces as part of a social marketing outreach plan, and they will not invest in areas without visibility" analyzes Angelo, the author of research and publications on urbanism and public spaces.
Creating New Uses
Another area adopted and reborn in Fortaleza is the Calçadão Crasa, a space located on a stretch of Avenue Jose Jatahy (in the neighborhood of Farias Brito). The initiative will be undertaken by the municipal program.
With the new space, adopted and renovated in 2012, Lana Terce, 34, celebrates the addition of an area for exercising. "It's pretty good. Before it was just grass, mud, stone, and nobody could do activities. Now, every night it is packed and it's wonderful. There are always many people doing exercises and the police are always on patrol," she added.
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Original article, originally published in Portuguese, can be found here.
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