An evacuation order by the Health Ministry has lawmakers at the Legislative Assembly searching for a new home. They may have finally found one just across the street from the Casa Presidencial in southeastern San José’s Zapote district.
With almost 11,000 square meters of space, the five-floor office and commercial complex was built one year ago and is the newest and largest of the eight buildings that members of the Legislative Assembly are currently considering. The new building has 380 parking spaces and offers a 360-degree view of the Central Valley.
“I think the size of the building is what got [lawmakers’] attention,” said architect Alberto Cerdas, of Inmobiliaria Mira, the firm that designed the $23.5 million structure. “Few buildings can accommodate the amount of office space they are looking for.”
Health Minister María Luisa Avila said the assembly’s old offices are no longer adequate to support lawmakers’ needs, and their crumbling infrastructure and old electrical wiring are safety risks (TT, June 11). In 2005, the Health Ministry issued its initial warning about the aging facilities, along with a five-year period that allowed for repairs to be made. But that notice expired this year, and lawmakers failed to budget funds for the building’s renovation.
In June, Avila gave legislators 24 hours to vacate the building, but lawmakers ignored the order.
In mid-December, Legislative Assembly President Luis Gerardo Villanueva gave the green light to the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) to locate and purchase a new building, with financing from the Central American Economic Integration Bank. The BCR would then rent the building to lawmakers.
Some politicians, including Villanueva, want all three branches of government centralized in one location in the capital city, but finding an appropriate site to accommodate these plans has proved challenging.
Last spring, in one of his last acts as president, Oscar Arias stood in an empty parking lot across from the current assembly and inaugurated an empty parking lot as the future site of the Casa Presidencial. But the ceremonial act was premature, because the land he had chosen hadn’t been purchased for the project.
Villanueva expects the Health Ministry’s evacuation order to delay plans for a central Civic Center, as the project is being called, by at least seven years.
Once a new site is approved, 700 lawmakers and staff members will relocate to the new building. Other sites still in the running are located on San José’s west side, in Pavas, Escazú and La Sabana.