SANTURCE OFFERS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DEVELOP INNOVATIVE URBAN PLANNING SOLUTIONS THAT CAN SET A PRECEDENT FOR OTHER BARRIOS IN PUERTO RICO.
Instead of rebuilding cities from scratch, we should identify and preserve their unique qualities, integrating them into reimagined structures and spaces that honor the past, cater to the present, and plan for the future.
Multifunctional and sustainable living spaces can be designed by understanding Santurce’s past as a foundation for future development. Collaborations between government, private enterprise, and local communities can create a dynamic, interconnected living experience for generations. Santurce has the fundamental components of an urban center, including education, healthcare, arts, culture, retail, and commerce, providing the basis for a vibrant, revitalized community.
While the basic structure exists, crucial connections are missing in Santurce. The area needs technological integration, a unique public transport strategy, walkable and well-lit streets, and clean, open spaces. Look at how technology, transportation, and walkability can be the foundation for transforming Santurce into a thriving urban center.
To revitalize Santurce, we must first implement a smart city plan that modernizes existing infrastructure. Smart cities use information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance citizen well-being by improving government services, fostering sustainable development, and addressing urbanization challenges.
A successful plan requires collaboration between government, private investors, and community leaders. This approach shifts the government's role from enforcer to enabler, emphasizing citizen participation and civic innovation. With direct engagement via smartphones, connected vehicles, and smart homes, citizens can reduce costs, increase efficiency, and enhance public services.
Since data is vital for managing a city in the 21st century, city managers must have access to reliable, up-to-date data and dependable systems for handling potential issues. Flexibility, adaptability, and connectivity are key.
By leveraging cloud-based technology and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, communities can streamline waste collection, reduce traffic congestion, optimize parking, enhance street lighting, improve air quality, and distribute energy more efficiently. This intelligent network of connected objects and machines allows real-time data management, analysis, and transmission.
Addressing these issues will pave the way for transforming Santurce into a functional, connected urban center.
For Santurce's revitalization, Ponce de León Avenue, its central corridor, should be the focal point of the city movement. As a linear city with Ponce de León as its central axis, Santurce's future design must honor this historical foundation. To improve connectivity in Santurce, we propose a comprehensive bicycle strategy to enhance public transportation.
This multi-faceted plan includes expanding sidewalks on both sides of Ponce de León Avenue, converting one-way streets into two-way streets along Ponce de León and Fernández Juncos Avenues, eliminating bus-only lanes to reduce traffic congestion, adding bicycle lanes for safety and promoting greener living, incorporating parallel parking for pedestrian protection, and implementing an electric bus system following the historic trolley lines.
These electric buses, resembling trolleys, will evoke a connection between past and present while offering practicality and convenience. Sharing lanes with cars, this affordable transportation system will appeal to locals and visitors, with stops corresponding to original trolley numbers.
Additional improvements include covered trolley stations, bike racks, and round-the-clock virtual connectivity points. Thoughtful design for cyclists and bus riders will encourage reduced reliance on private vehicles, promoting sustainable transportation alternatives.
Walkability is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of successful urban design, as it promotes human connectivity and social interaction. Unfortunately, cities worldwide face the consequences of past mistakes made during the modernist planning movement, prioritizing vehicular transport over pedestrian needs. This oversight has led to ongoing issues that have persisted for over fifty years.
Developing a walkability strategy in Santurce involves understanding the role of automobiles in the area. While cars can be helpful, they are not essential for mobility along Ponce de León and Fernández Juncos Avenues. Therefore, we propose reducing car and bus lanes, allowing two-way traffic on the remaining routes. This approach should encourage slower driving, protect pedestrians, and decrease traffic congestion.
Additionally, we recommend enlarging sidewalks, adding bicycle lanes, and incorporating parallel parking spaces. Parallel parking combined with two-way streets has historically promoted retail business growth within cities. At the same time, expanded sidewalks provide a buffer zone for pedestrians and stimulate business for ground-level vendors and restaurants.
Prioritizing fast transport over human connectivity has negatively impacted communities for decades. By thoughtfully redesigning sidewalks, roads, public squares, and green spaces, walkability can be reintroduced to the area and foster city-wide connectivity.
Santurce's revitalization hinges on successfully integrating innovative technology, efficient transportation, and enhanced walkability. By embracing smart solutions and prioritizing pedestrian-friendly urban design, Santurce can transform into a sustainable, connected, and vibrant community.
Santurce can set a shining example for modern urban planning if we foster a thriving environment that promotes human connectivity, social interaction, and economic growth. This results in an attractive destination for residents, businesses, and visitors.
Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz, FAIA, is the founder and principal of the architectural firm Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón, with offices in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is past president of the Puerto Rico Builders Association and is currently co-director of the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Governor of the ULI foundation. Álvarez-Díaz is licensed to practice architecture in Florida, Texas, New York, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
Source: Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón