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Before leaving office, President of the Republic Ricardo Martinelli inaugurated the “new” Old Quarter. The restoration of the roads and infrastructure at Casco Antiguo were part of the project known as “Preservation of the Historic Patrimony of Panama City.” The task was carried out by the Brazilian company, Odebrecht Infraestructura, and conducted under the guidance of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture or INAC) and the Ministerio de Obras Públicas (Ministry of Public Works or MOP), carrying a cost of over $700,000,000 dollars.
María Eugenia Herrera, then Director of INAC, said that during the restoration efforts, remains from Panama’s colonial period were unearthed, such as glass bottles, ceramics and metal artifacts, all of which came from the 17th century, the time of the founding of Casco Antiguo when construction began on the Baluarte de San José (the San José Seawall) after the destruction of Panama Viejo due to the pirate Henry Morgan’s assault.
She stressed the importance of preserving the work for future generations, saying that it will involve the “continual and tireless teamwork of the government, business owners and residents alike.”
The work done in Casco Antiguo included separating the sewage water pipes from the storm drains, installing a new pumping station, rehabilitating the potable water system with PVC pipes, burying electric and communication cables, improving street lights and restoring the pavement with red, clay brick. A new, 5-story parking structure was built
between Calle 9 and Calle 10 Oeste, with a capacity for 117 vehicles. All of these efforts were conducted while protecting the unique architectural styles that distinguish the area.
The project did not come without any sacrifice for area residents who contended with constant street closures and money lost to businesses as a result. Building owners were able to benefit from tax exemptions as a way to motivate them to participate in renovation projects.
Because of the project’s great success, the administration of current President Juan Carlos Varela is considering similar strategies for areas such as San Lorenzo and Portobelo in Colón.