Back from Panama
I had the pleasure of spending the last two weeks in Panama, the majority of that time in the city of Panama. Panama City has not only established itself as a financial powerhouse within Latin America (and the Western Hemisphere for that matter), but is currently going through a large urban development boom, with tall skyscrapers lining the skyline. While driving into the city from the airport, one can get overwhelmed by the amount of construction that is visible in the urban core. Of course, being a city enthusiast, I was completely in my element. It did make me think about the extent to which the development is affecting the residents of the city, as well as the residents in the outlying areas.
A few months back, I came across a brief story by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy highlighting Panama’s development patterns, which, up to this point, have been a bit uncoordinated. Alvaro Uribe of Panama’s International Center for Sustainable Development was cited in this story, stating “The city is going everywhere…it’s completely horizontal, formal and informal, with very low densities. Barbed wire has become the boundary of the neighborhood, and down the middle, a road.” Anyone driving near Punta Paitilla will see that this is the case.
But a planning movement is emerging, with a new Urban Law going into affect in 2006 and some new regulations will be able to better justify some of the massing and height, and allow for the creation of new boulevards (one of which is a new oceanfront boulevard that just opened. Yep, it is incredibly beautiful). I also heard some rumors through the grapevine that a more robust public transportation system will be put into place in the upcoming years. Progress indeed. Currently, the only mode of public transportation within the urban core is the system of painted school buses, endearingly called diablos rojos – red devils. With congestion levels becoming almost unbearable during rush hour, new solutions will need to be looked at, hopefully with the goal of taking some cars off the road.
I hope to have some pictures to share with the blog’s readers soon. Stay tuned…