When the Santos Lima building went up for sale for €7.2m (£6.4m) in Marvila, a former industrial area of Lisbon, investors might have thought they’d spotted a bargain. Running some 100m along the Rua do Açucar, the building was listed online as unoccupied and “ideal for being turned into an apart-hotel or offices”. But to its long-term residents, the advertisement came as a shock.
“I think [the companies] bought it without knowing … the state of the building, and without knowing what was inside it,” says resident Eduardo Nicola, a retired traffic policeman who lives in Santos Lima. Hidden behind the building’s grand 19th-century facade is a two-story complex of tiny homes, originally destined for workers at the nearby factories and now occupied by low-income renters.
For residents, the so-called “regeneration” of Marvila – now home to a craft beer brewery, and with the world’s largest co-working startup under construction down the road – has been extraordinarily fast. Santos Lima has already been sold twice in the past four years and as property prices continue to soar it’s now on the market again – without, it seems, any consideration for the futures of the 17 or so families still living there.