Since the approval of the new Urban Master Plan, the debates on the future of Minhocão Highway of Sao Paulo, Brazil have intensified. That's because the plan provides "a gradual restriction of motorized individual transport on elevated highways" and "its complete deactivation as a traffic lane, including its demolition or a partial or full transformation into a park."
The Minhocão, a highway built for cars, is now expected to be demolished in the upcoming days. The debate has focused on whether to demolish or renovate the aging highway by transforming it into an elevated park? Unfortunately, this is not the main dilemma that Minhocão, its users and the population of the city face today.
Turning the space into a park does not solve the problem of lessening the impact of the monstrous structure due to the fact that there are many streets that run through the area. The old elevated highway crosses residential and mixed income neighborhoods of the city, which deteriorated with the presence of the highway. Moreover, the invasion of the highway helped promote the emptying of these residential neighborhoods. So, first of all, there is a need to resume the residential function of the area, noting that today's lower-income residents living in the area have been able to do so due to its devaluation. Incidentally, news of the elevated park has brought up the expectations of rising property prices in the surrounding area.
On the other hand, the project of overthrowing the Minhocão creates the need for an urban plan that considers alternative east-west circulation and absorption of traffic flow, with the addition of a high capacity public transport system. What sort of alternative could this be?
The question is therefore not of whether to demolish the old highway or create a park, but requires us instead to think of an intervention in the region to recover an urban environmental quality, improve the mobility in the city and be able to preserve the presence of the current residents and attract new ones.
It is true that São Paulo needs local parks. Urgently. We just won one, in the Butantã district, to be called Chácara do Jockey Park, since it was once land owned by Jockey Club and bought by the city as a kind of payment to alleviate the huge tax debt that the club owes the municipality. There is an opportunity to create another park, the Augusta, which would be the last empty green area in a central neighborhood that suffered a recent boom in property construction.
In the case of the Chácara do Jockey Park the city did not have the power to expropriate the land and prevent the area from building more towers, but this fate can be avoided for the Augusta park. As the Director of the newly approved city plan classified this land as a Special Zone of Environmental Preservation (ZEPAM), the constructive potential of the area, if not used at the site, can be transferred to another location in the city. Owners can take advantage of this transfer in order to build property or even sell potential construction opportunities.
Thus, the city wins because it does not have to spend millions of dollars to evict the owner and, guarantees a great real estate site operation profit while not losing the economic value of the land. Unlike the Minhocão, which requires more complex urban solutions, we are able to create other parks, such as the Augusta.
How has your city decided to transform its aging infrastructure? Do you think the highway should be demolished or turned into a park? Has your city turned highways into parks spaces? Share your stories below.
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.