If you’ve ever been downtown Barranquilla (the area commonly referred to as Centro), you’ve probably done so with some level of angst. Most people from the north end of the city and indeed, almost all foreigners, cringe at the idea of a walk in that district. And rightly so; the area is dirty, smelly, congested and to some degree, dangerous.
It wasn’t always that way. Just three or four generations back, downtown Barranquilla was a place of dreams and hope with gorgeous, tree-lined boulevards and grand buildings and monuments.
The municipality is hoping to bring back the grandeur and encourage the population to get involved, bringing the sector back to what it once was, and what it can be again. Mayor Char has launched the planning process of what will be a 180 degree flip to the current layout, cleanliness, ambiance and safety.
Just this past week, the municipality held a press conference for local business associations representing some 600 vendors who currently have stalls lining the area between Carreras 40 to 43 and Calles 30 to 34 with the intent of explaining (and socializing) the city’s proposal. The city plans to construct and install modern-looking metal stalls to replace the existing self constructs lining the sidewalks.
Along with the stalls, the city is planning a complete beautification of the streets including the installation of new pavement, sidewalks, lighting and greenery plus underground wiring and sewage.
The press conference was also a chance to hear recommendations from the public on design opportunities and ways to improve the stalls’ functionality. On hand were both Jaime Pumarejo Heins, the city’s Development Manager and Henry Caceres Messino, the Secretary of Urban Control and Public Spaces. Together, they laid out the results of analysis that was done detailing the area’s history over the last decade. There have been numerous purges of the area as street vendors have become too aggressive, expanding to the point where they block access to traffic and to local storefront businesses.
The city is proposing the construction of a total of 80 tubular-steel modules most of which will have eight spaces measuring 1.92 square meters from which vendors can sell their wares. Each space will be covered with painted, galvanized metal to protect from the elements and will be secured with an individual steel door. The plan also includes the construction of six bathroom spaces to be situated one per street.
According to Mr. Pumarejo Heins, the municipality wants to regain its center and at the same time, they hope to improve the lives of the vendors and the local townspeople.