San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Saving History: A Fight Against Time, Indifference Suggestions from Citizens Are Taken Seriously

Barva, Heredia Province, and the House ofCulture in Heredia.Since 1997, the center has held anannual competition called “Saving OurPatrimony” to choose a building to bedeclared national patrimony and receivefunds for its restoration and maintenance.THE most common way a building isconsidered for patrimony status is throughsuggestions from average citizens. Anyonecan make a suggestion to the center simplyby calling the offices and providing themwith information about the proposed place;sending them a fax, or bringing a writtensuggestion to their offices in the NationalCenter of Culture (CENAC) in San José, onCalle 11, Ave. 3/7.Although not every suggestion getsserious consideration, almost all are atleast visited by members of the center.“When we get a suggestion from a citizen,we are compelled by law to look into it,”Vives said, “and although we may not lookinto every one of them because of a lack ofhuman resources, we cover most of them.”To make a suggestion, call 223-2533 or255-3523, or fax 256-4891.Vives said that fortunately, not everyowner of a historic building is eager to tearit down. Actually, a lot of owners are willingto help with their buildings’ preservationif they have the money, or to look forhelp if they don’t.“MANY owners of buildings thathave been declared patrimony not onlycomply with the regulations, but also try toimprove it if they can,” Vives said.An example of this is Pasaje Cristal inthe Caribbean port city of Limón, a historicbuilding being repaired and restored entirelywith private funds. In these cases, thecenter assists the owner in matters such asregulations to follow, changes that can andcannot be made, and steps to follow duringthe restoration process.When the property is a public institution,it is restored and maintained usingfunds assigned to the center, which canalso use donations from other public institutionsand private groups.Since several changes to historic buildingsthat have been declared patrimony areregulated by law and require permits fromthe MCJD, owners are sometimes baffledby what they are and aren’t allowed to dowithout the intervention of the authorities.“MINOR reparations such as changinga broken window don’t require a permit,but if you need to do something big, suchas tear down a wall, or change the roof,then permits will be required,” Vives said.Interested owners can also obtain amanual with recommendations for the conservationof real estate that has beendeclared patrimony. Although the manualdoes not detail which situations requirepermits and which don’t, it has someimportant guidelines and useful information.Other important achievements that benefitpatrimony owners include an agreementwith the National Insurance Institute (INS)to cover their property, and an agreementwith the Banco Nacional to facilitate creditfor financing the restoration and maintenanceof property projects. The center hasinformation about both plans.

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