Breaking the rules in Casco Viejo
PANAMA. Citizen protest in Panama often takes the shape of road-blocking worker strikes, yet for the last few weeks a few Casco Viejo r...
PANAMA. Citizen protest in Panama often takes the shape of road-blocking worker strikes, yet for the last few weeks a few Casco Viejo residents have successfully implemented a new methodology, posting banners on their balconies to denounce a neighboring investment they believe aims to provide a false historical account of the country’s heritage site.
Linette Montenegro, director of National Heritage, a department within the National Institute of Culture, asked for constructions to be suspended on works in the PH Plaza Independencia, in Independence Plaza, aka Cathedral Plaza.
The National Heritage department agrees with neighbors that the building is an aggressive break from the architectural uniformity of the area known for its French colonial structures.
After Montenegro wrote a letter to municipal engineer Jaime Salas saying that “the way the building is developing gives a false account of history that, in turn, does serious injury to the nation’s heritage,” construction was halted at the end of March by order of the Director of Works and Constructions.
Investigations into the approval process of the project are under way.
“Work was halted, and will continue to be halted”, said Norris Vega, from National Heritage.
“Investigations are ongoing to see if the accepted building plans were altered, or if any changes were not presented at all.”
The preliminary inspections showed that the façade of the residential complex in the historic plaza grew in volume and height from the original plans, which violates the restoration norms for Casco Viejo buildings.
Developers offered construction plans and permits allegedly approved by Evangelina Crespo, former director of National Heritage in 1999.
According to Vega, Crespo has denied signing the plans of the building, and cannot explain how her signature appears in the documents presented by the developers.
Vega said it is now up to Crespo’s discretion whether she files a legal complaint against the company.
“The office of National Heritage is doing its part in collecting all of the documents, the permits and the accepted building plans. If there is going to be any legal action, we have all of the background material,” she said.
Vega denies they are planning to take legal action on their own, claiming it is out of their jurisdiction.
Inversiones y Proyectos Casco Viejo S.A., developers of PH Plaza Independencia, was called to a meeting by Montenegro, however, up to this day they haven’t accepted the invitation.
The residential project was originally scheduled to conclude in June, set to join the wide array of colonial structures restored over the last with apartments selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.