After much controversy over proposals to move Casa Presidencial, President Oscar Arias has decided to relocate the presidential offices from the southeastern San José district of Zapote to the city’s center, according to a statement from the Culture Ministry.
The new Casa Presidencial will be located on the eastern side of the National Park, near other government buildings including the Legislative Assembly, Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) and Supreme Court buildings. The move is part of efforts to “revitalize San José and reaffirm our democratic culture,” the statement said.
Since assuming office in May, Arias has expressed a desire to relocate Casa Presidencial to downtown San José. His suggestion to move it to the National Cultural Center (CENAC), housed in the old National Liquor Factory building, sparked numerous protests of outrage by the artist community (TT, June 30).
Artists breathed a sigh of relief yesterday upon hearing of the decision not to move Casa Presidencial to CENAC, said actress and director of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) School of Theater María Bonilla.
“It was an act of good judgment,” Bonilla said of Arias’ decision, adding that the artist community is planning a celebration in the near future.
Nevertheless, Bonilla said artists must remain vigilant that the government takes measures to protect culture.
“No country can guarantee artists tranquility,” Bonilla said. “There will always be threats to our budget and sometimes to our expression.”
A commission called the Project for Regional and Urban Planning in the Metropolitan Area (PRU-GAM) was created to study options for Casa Presidencial’s relocation, taking into account transportation, green space, cultural activities and government affairs, the statement said.
The new Casa Presidencial will be completed within two to three years on the grounds of the Atlantic Train Station, which measure more than two hectares between the Costa Rican Railroad Institute (INCOFER) and the Social Security System (Caja) buildings, according to the daily La Nación.
The space houses a parking lot, the Museum of Forms, Spaces and Sounds, which would be moved to a new, unspecified location, and the Atlantic Train Station, which would be converted into a reception hall, the daily reported. The train tracks would also be rerouted to accommodate the new Casa Presidencial buildings.