Curridabat undertakes urban transformation to improve the lives of its inhabitants

Curridabat undertakes urban transformation to improve the lives of its inhabitants

City council promotes initiative that, in addition to reshaping the look of 21 neighborhoods, integrates nature with neighbors
Parks with spaces for children and adults, free classes and workshops, as well as new storm sewers are part of the proposal

Axel Cajina, 18 years old and neighbor of Miravalles, a town in the Quince de Agosto citadel, listens attentively to the free Mathematics classes he receives at the La Cometa Human Development Center, located in the district of Tirrases de Curridabat, to get well out of the second call in that area to move to fifth year.
In another room of the same site, Minier Rodríguez, 24, who lives in Llano La Gloria, is struggling with a manuality that will teach his daughters, three and a year, when he gets home.
A few kilometers, in a scenario with less deficiencies, Isabella Arroyo, two and a half years, plays with her father Carlos in the park of the urbanization El Prado. There you can both entertain. She with a play area for children; he, with some of the machines to do exercises available in this public space near Plaza del Sol.
With different realities, but united by the common factor of living in Curridabat, they are part of the 20,000 inhabitants of the canton who are positively impacted by the Espacios de Dulzura program, which began in March 2016.
This is promoted by the local municipality and what it seeks is to rethink the present urban space by one that integrates nature with the communities, so that, in addition to transforming the physical aspect of the neighborhoods, also improves the coexistence and encourages the development of the population.
This program was recently awarded by the UN-Habitat project, which recognizes sustainable urban development initiatives in line with the new urban agenda of the United Nations.
For this organization the work of the municipality of Curridabat is exemplary. Although the prize is not monetary, the program will now be a model for other Latin American countries where such actions are needed.


What are you looking for?

This social management strategy aims to renew the aspect of 21 neighborhoods of Curridabat, and with this offer better living conditions and more opportunities to 28% of the 70,000 inhabitants that the canton has.
The communities in question are: Abedules, Asovic, Chapultepec, Contec, El Hogar, Freses, Higuerón, José María Zeledón, La Europa, La Paris, La Ponderosa, La Tecla, La Volio, Lomas del Sol, Lomas de San Pancracio, Miravalles, Pinos del Este, San Ángel, San José and Valle de Sol.
The fruits of the program are already beginning to see. The park of the urbanization El Prado, in the El Hogar neighborhood, is the example of a desired public space in all communities. There, about three hectares, between trails and green areas, are dedicated to the recreation of families. 
There is also an open library, that is, a mailbox where you can take a book for free and, if the person wants to keep it, he does, as long as he leaves another in return.
"I feel that these parks promote culture and participation and influence to reduce crime. Overall, they have a positive impact on the mentality of the population," said Carlos Arroyo, a neighbor of Pinto neighborhood.

Carlos Arroyo, neighbor of Barrio Pinto, Curridabat, believes that the park fosters culture and participation among the inhabitants. (RAFAEL PACHECO)
Two communities where actions have also been taken are Tirrases and Valle del Sol, which shelter populations at social risk.
The backbone of Tirrases is the Community Development Center La Cometa, a place that gives free classes and workshops, in order to give tools to the inhabitants and thus improve the economic conditions of neighboring families.
Other structural developments such as the Center for Child Care and Development (CECUDI), the construction of a section for women in the rehabilitation shelter for the indigent older adult alcoholic and the plans for a home that will care for elderly people with dementia, in addition to the projects developed in this district.
Meanwhile, in Valle de Sol also began work. There will be a 300 meter promenade with access ramps, benches, planters, storm drains, communal lounge and better lighting.
The old soccer field is also being repaired, which will be replaced by a synthetic grass, and a public gym is built to allow the neighbors to exercise.

Édgar Mora, mayor of Curridabat. (RAFAEL PACHECO)

An integral strategy

Espacios de Dulzura is a model based on five dimensions: coexistence, habitat, infrastructure, biodiversity and productivity, explained the mayor of Curridabat, Édgar Mora.
According to the leader, the program works from two areas: neighborhoods and transitions between them.
"In the case of the neighborhoods, they are transformed from the demand of the inhabitants. We do not ask the question of what they want, but what is the best neighborhood possible for them. has time living in those places and knows them well, talk about the neighborhood they can have, "said Mora.
As for the transitions, that is, the 'hits' between one neighborhood and another, he says the projection is to make them more friendly to passers-by.
"For example, in the convergence between the section of the Pops and José María Zeledón, or where Crystal Plaza is located, people notice that they are transitions of poor quality. Well, what is sought is to redesign the spaces, take advantage of the entire area available, to grow them, to fill them with vegetation and to start to be pleasant spaces, "he said.
Why the name Spaces of Sweetness? Because, the general objective of the initiative is to achieve happy citizens, argues the mayor.
Érick Calderón, architect of the company Tándem - one of the developers of Espacios de Dulzura - said that they have been based on the pillars of participatory design. Therefore, in each of the 21 communities involved, five meetings were held in which the inhabitants could express their expectations regarding the new space in which they wish to live. The participation was 1,000 attendees.

Financing is the key

But how do you come up with such a complex proposal? For Mayor Edgar Mora, the 21 neighborhoods could be ready in the next two years if a financing plan is generated that supports the project and does not limit it to the municipal budget.
"The idea is to do it not with municipal budget, but through debt. There are no big cities that have carried out urban projects without having been indebted," argued Mora.
In fact, the works carried out in Tirrases and Valle de Sol are the product of a sum of ¢ 500 million granted by the Fund for Social Development and Family Allowances (Fodesaf). This money was delivered through a special mechanism, more expeditious, different from the one used by the institution traditionally and created especially for Spaces of Sweetness.

Colegiales receive Mathematics classes as part of the summer courses of the Community Development Center La Cometa, in Tirrases. (RAFAEL PACHECO)

Training center envisions a better future for Tirrases

The Local Human Development Plan for the canton of Curridabat 2013-2023 indicates that 18% of the inhabitants of Tirrases are in poverty, while 7% are in extreme poverty.
Amid these arid figures, the Human Development Center La Cometa represents an oasis for those who aspire to a better future.
Opened in December 2012 as part of the Espacios de Dulzura project, this venue offers free classes and workshops in order to offer learning tools to neighbors.
There, from adults to children, take advantage of classes in computer science, English, business gestation and reinforcement in Mathematics, Chemistry and English, both for primary and secondary students, as well as for those studying in the night system.
There is also space for craft workshops, electricity, bakery and gardening. Artistic courses for children, youth and adults are also offered in disciplines such as ballet, theater, circus arts, keyboard, guitar, singing, percussion, painting and drawing. To make matters worse, sports like taekwondo and gymnastics also have room.
"It's much better to come here to learn something than to be at home with nothing to do," said Wendy Rodriguez, 22, while working on a craftsmanship in the Fine Arts workshop.
Natalia Galeano, coordinator of the center, explains that the transversal axis of the classes is personal development and empowerment.

Natalia Galeano, coordinator of the Human Development Center La Cometa, in Tirrases. (RAFAEL PACHECO)
"What we are interested in is developing people who understand that it is possible to have a life project and give them the tools to manage that project." This is how we believe we can get out of poverty, not so much by giving social assistance, but by promoting the people to develop, "he emphasized.

And every day they take steps to get it. For sample, a button: per month, a total of 1,800 neighbors take advantage of the courses given in this place.