Every Sunday I do my grocery shop trip to the “outsides”. “Las Afueras” in Spanish, were all the areas outside Casco Viejo. They used to be a mix between country houses (Bella Vista), cattle farm (Paitilla) and mangrove. Either riding on a bus or in a car, I pass by Avenida Balboa which was built on top of all these beauties in the name of progress. My mind wanders back to the historic picture I have in my office and how different both landscape and culture where changed when the city grew.
Finally, and almost with 50 years delay, the country decided to build a coastal park to recover some of the green spaces we lost as a city. And maybe even the beach culture? well, only time will tell.
An ambitious project no one really knew if the company would be able to deliver in three years. But to our surprise, the Cinta Costera (coast strip) at Panama´s Balboa Avenue is moving forward and fast. Regardless of the many comments regarding the percentage of actual green area vs cement and plazas or the origin of the funding for the huge work, I have to say that Odebrecht has done a great job getting things done on record time.
Passing by Avenida Balboa yesterday, you could see the huge pipes on site, ready to go!
From Paitilla to Casco Viejo, this project aims to build a huge strip with extra traffic lanes but also with parks and other recreational areas. But the true underlying value of the cinta costera is that it will cover all the pipes to re direct the sewer system and clean Panama´s bay. In the last few weeks, the project has been in the eye of the hurricane because of a re design of the percentage of green areas vs cement areas (parking and plazas). It has also been claimed that the government intends to charge a tax to the areas that benefit directly from it. Both issues have been in the papers non stop, as the civil society and the government look for a middle point, but the one undiscussed benefit is the cleanning of the bay, which will benefit the entire province.
Once the cinta costera is completed, it is just a matter of time to be able to enjoy the coast as our parents did in the fifties. Back then, there was a strip of beach and residents could go for a swim or just a relax afternoon. For Casco Viejo, where we still have beaches (Panama´s best kept secret!) and even a small surf break this is nothing but good news.