Historic Downtown District of San Jose To Be Revitalized

    Plans to make San Jose the cultural epicenter of Costa Rica.

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    The Technological Institute of Costa Rica (TEC) recently introduced an ambitious plan to upgrade the face of downtown San Jose. In total that will include 108 blocks, from Avenida 7, Avenida 10, Calle 9, to Democracy Square.

    The project will be carried out in 3 big phases:

    • Redesign public spaces to improve mobility through the extension of sidewalks, improving the lighting, the decrease of traffic, and the provision of more electronic security systems, among others
    • Promoting regular cultural and artistic activities in public spaces
    • Increase the use of some buildings that are currently almost uninhabited, as well as implement a stimulus plan and financing aimed at young ‘millenials’ and workers from the central areas

    The aim of this proposal is to increase the comfort and functionality of the city, as well as enhance the value of historical buildings through cultural activities aimed towards tourists, local businesses, and city residents.

    Tom Martinez, coordinator of the TEC project, indicated that the project would be completed by 2021, and is very positive about the future as there are several institutions and businesses who are involved to support this ambitious plan.  The plan has already conducted a diagnosis of the historic center of San Jose, and identified that the population of the four districts of the Greater Metropolitan Area (El Carmen, Merced, Hospital and Cathedral) fell 31% between 1973 and 2011.  These are alarming figures when compared with other Latin American urban areas.  They also noted that of all the tourists who visit Costa Rica, only 11% visit San Jose.  The research also identified another troubling trend, whereby the number of visits to the metropolitan museums located in this area in San Jose fell by 45% between 2008 and 2014.

    Johnny Araya, mayor of San Jose, also participated in the presentation, and has already expressed his commitment to this project.  He is particularly interested in rehabilitating 30 abandoned buildings to give them a residential use, along with the redesign and reactivation of the public spaces.  Furthermore, Araya spoke of the basic issues such as improvements in security concerns, public sanitary facilities, and public transportation, and the need to address these as a way to entice local residents to return to living in downtown San Jose.

    Martinez believes that when a city grows in population, it revitalizes and reactivates the city economically.  While this growth enhances the city, this new project will support the residents.  Living closer to where they work, and having everything they need within easy reach is also better for the environment.  It reduces harmful emissions from transportation needed to travel to and from their homes or work places.  Having a larger population based in the downtown areas is also an economic savings as investing in peripheral infrastructure outside the city is very high.

    For its part, Julio Cesar Calvo, Director of TEC, said that it is important to continue this dialogue with the San Jose municipality and others involved so this new direction and upcoming initiatives are designed together.  The aim is to, once again, make San Jose the epicenter of the traditional and cultural activities of Costa Rica.

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