Grates in Anhangabaú block public access – 07/21/2023 – Mauro Calliari

In recent months, those who walk through Anhangabaú have come across more and more bars, which close access and even prevent the passage. Up there, on the Chá viaduct, occasionally, there is also an infamous metallic fence that covers the most iconic view of the city.

The scene is repeated at each event held by the Viva o Vale concessionaire. The problem is that the concerts are private, but they affect the public space.

How to deal with these concessions?

The first notion is that concession is not privatization. It is a way that the public administration finds to guarantee that the population receives a better service than what it itself provides. In relation to public spaces, though, sometimes this makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.

The highway concession is easy to understand. The concessionaire receives toll revenue and, in exchange, provides maintenance and security services and works on improvements.

Unlike these places, which have a guaranteed revenue stream, public spaces in the city such as parks or plazas are not charged to users. Public spaces are an essential part of city life and, of course, they should be. The concessionaires that assume the maintenance of these spaces end up seeking creativity to generate cash flow. In Ibirapuera, for example, to improve cleanliness and maintenance, the concessionaire increased the price of parking, increased the number of kiosks and small shops — perhaps even with a certain exaggeration —, hosts corporate events and, unfortunately, closed concerts.

This is where the thing picks up. When you go to a public space and find it closed, the notion of public and private is relativized and the conflict of interests becomes explicit.

In the case of Anhangabaú, therefore, it is difficult to even understand the concession — the BRL 106 million renovation was financed with public money, the space is open, right next to the city hall, the Praça das Artes and the Municipal Theater, and could very well be being managed by the municipal administration itself. Since it is not, it is worth understanding how to improve the service that the dealership provides. This translates into a contract and an evaluation system.

For ten years, the Viva o Vale concessionaire has to offer maintenance, security, cleaning and 320 free monthly activities to its visitors — such as yoga, skateboarding and dance classes, in addition to activating the fountains three times a day (has anyone seen it?). It also has to free up space for public events, such as Virada Cultural or the 1st of May show. And it pays for it, up to R$ 50 million depending on the revenue stream.

Well then, how do you generate revenue if you manage an open space in the middle of the city center? They chose to lease the space for filming and events, and mainly for private shows. There have been 31 since opening. I learned that at each show they close the voucher 48 hours before and 12 hours after it ends. Considering a 2 hour show, the valley closes 62 hours minimum. Not counting public events, there are at least 80 days when the valley is closed to pedestrians. There are estimates of over a hundred. Conflict of interest is set. The city hall receives money for the concessionaire to provide services to the population, but the very origin of the revenue disturbs another part of the population, with noise and setbacks.

There’s another example of a lack of user-friendly clauses. There is nothing in the contract that obliges the concessionaire to open the kiosks built during the renovation. They remain empty and melancholy, waiting for coffee and small shops, surrounded by bars. The dealership says it is working to open.

The last issue has to do with evaluation. How to evaluate the service provided? In concession contracts, in parks or transport terminals, there is a Performance Measurement System (SMD), which evaluates everything from cleanliness to the friendliness of employees. The city hall says that the activities carried out in the valley were approved by almost 75% of the people. Sounds good, but the methodology is probably not able to assess everyday use, outside of events.

To make matters worse, there is no provision for the formation of a council, as is the case in parks. Without the participation of users, businessmen, residents and merchants, it is difficult to imagine that someone would point the finger at the problems and encourage the concessionaire to improve.

The renovation of Anhangabaú has not yet taken off. Space remains disintegrated from the edges of the valley, everyday use is small and giant events are not the solution. By deciding to grant the space to the private sector, the city gave up direct management of the most iconic place in the city. It is now up to demand that it learn to improve its contracts to ensure that businesses exist according to the needs of the population and not against it.

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