Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saving San Victorino From the Modernizing Steam Roller

The San Victorino Market area
The San Victorino market area and plaza might be the most colorful and quintessentially Colombia place in Bogotá. Unsurprisingly, the city has a plan to 'modernize' and, likely, destroy the area's charm and uniqueness by turning into a wholesale distribution area. Perhaps fortunately, the plan has stalled, according to El Tiempo. And, the area's current resident small businesses have joined forces and persuaded the city to promise to save them from this rush to modernity.

The plan for the new San Victorino - clean and orderly. 
Certainly, it's good to develop central Bogotá. But there must be a way to do it without driving out the existing small businesses, which provide thousands of jobs, and without destroying its uniqueness and turning it into a charmless, pre-fab district which could be anywhere. And, don't forget the many people who shop in San Victorino - altho city planners probably imagine they'd be happier in a Wal-Mart.

In any case, is the middle of downtown really the place for a wholesale distribution facility, with all of its trucks and heavy cargo? The area is already very congested and polluted. Can it handle more heavy traffic? Would distribution companies even want to locate here, amidst traffic jams, rather than on the edge of town?

How about building a middle class apartment building on the open lot, perhaps including a movie theatre? The area has disadvantages - it's just a few blocks from El Bronx - but also lots of advantages: three nearby Transmilenio lines, a park next door, convenient shopping, and you're just a few blocks away from the capital and historical center. What downtown needs to give it more life at night and make its streets safer is more activity and life on the streets after dark. This would help do it.

The area behind the wall to the left is slated to be used as a wholesale distribution center.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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