Urban make-over

news: Urban make-over

Plans have been announced to revamp the Alcântara district of Lisbon between now and 2012. According to the government and Lisboa Câmara, the 600 million euro project could attract around 15,000 people to the area.

The Alcântara XXI town-planning study, carried out by architects Frederico Valsassina and Aires Mateus, involves various urbanisation projects covering 43 hectares of land, that are currently occupied by obsolete factories. According to Carmona Rodrigues, President of the Lisboa Câmara, Alcântara XXI is an opportunity to re-energise these areas. “It is a very important area near the river and has national historic value,” he commented.

But despite its richness, this area has degenerated in the last decade, with a 70 per cent reduction in employment in the factories and 30 per cent decrease in general employment. Alcântara has also lost a quarter of its population and the school qualification level is below the city’s average.

The scheme aims to reverse this trend, and architect Valsassina estimates that, once it is completed, around 10,000 new inhabitants will choose to live in the area. The project, backed by the SIL group, includes the construction of three 105 metre towers, each with 35 floors, subject to a referendum to be carried out among local residents in March next year. According to Rodrigues: “Alcântara XXI also focuses on accessibility, mainly road and rail work, including the extension of the Yellow Line of the Lisbon Underground, predicted to conclude in 2008 at a cost of 190 million euros.

Valsassina adds: “One of the aims of this study is to improve public space,” claiming the project to be the biggest city area renovation since Expo’98. Alcântara XXI still has a long way to go and Lisbon Câmara has yet to approve all the elements, but local residents are optimistic that the scheme will improve their living and working environment. “I hope this will mean my family can all find work and we can live in a nicer place.”