Real Estate Development Studio: Sao Paulo

In 2013 and 2014, the The Real Estate Development Studio (11.303J / 4.254J) tackled a large development site in the Anhangabaú Valley, located in the historic core of São Paulo. The Anhangabaú is surrounded by a mix of commercial, residential, institutional, civic, and open space, including a landmark mid-century modern skyscrapers on one side, and an ancient religious complex on the other side. The site is also immediately adjacent to one of the busiest subway stations in São Paulo. Plagued by complex patterns of ownership and traffic congestion, the downtown core has seen little new development in recent decades. Meanwhile, new commercial and residential centers have mushroomed along a highway vector to the southwest, extending farther and farther away from the center.

The Real Estate Development Studio engages real estate, planning, and architecture students in preparing professional development proposals – including market analysis, program, design, finance, and approval strategies – for real world sites and clients. The studio proposes questions including, What makes a good site? Recognizing real estate development opportunities and constraints inherent in a given location. What makes a good project? Arriving at a development concept that best responds to the markets, while resolving physical, financial, and public policy constraints. What is the right form and image for a program that maximizes benefits to the project and its surrounding community? Does the project work financially? How should it unfold over time, managing risk while maximizing opportunities for value creation?

Progressive Paulistas, searching for a more sustainable model of urban development, are working to re-position downtown as a place to live as well as work.  The downtown enjoys easy access to a huge workforce, because it is the focus of an extensive radial transit network. Drawn by these assets, financial institutions and corporations have begun to reinvest in the core, lead by Viva O Centro, a downtown redevelopment advocacy group - the client for the studio. 

Student teams proposed aggressive development of the Anhangabaú Valley, which is now the route of a major highway.  Depressing the highway provides sites for major new buildings, public spaces, and cultural institutions, while preserving the iconic art-deco downtown, and other historic fabric. The infrastructure was financed by the city selling development rights (CEPACS) to the project area, and then reinvesting the proceeds in local improvements. Proposals envision a high-density 21st century center for Sao Paulo mixing new forms of work and living, the arts, design, food, and a human-scaled, very Brazilian, public realm.