City and Regional Planning

Voto Nacional Bogota, Columbia. A Responsible Urban Renewal Plan

Fall 2017 Studio

Executive Summary: A responsible Plan for Renewal

THE COST OF URBAN RENEWAL

Crime and violence have defined the neighborhood of Voto Nacional for decades. In the heart of Bogotá, this once thriving neighborhood has experienced rapid economic decline. Once vibrant street life has been supplanted by violent illicit activities and concentrated poverty. This crime and violence radiates from a set of blocks, called El Bronx, located in the very center of Voto Nacional.

El Bronx has been called a “hell in the heart of Bogotá”. Politicians have come to describe the neighborhood as an “independent republic of crime”. To date, government responses to curb crime and reduce poverty have been largely ineffective. Local efforts have relied upon physical interventions that sought building clearance as a means to ending decades of gang violence. These urban renewal strategies have done little to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations. Instead of reducing crime and violence, the government has simply displaced people by the masses and moved illicit activities elsewhere.

El Bronx is a direct result of the government’s ambitious urban renewal projects. Before El Bronx, a neighborhood a few blocks to the east, El Cartucho, was home to much of this illicit activity. The government’s plan cleared El Cartucho and replaced it with a large park, Parque Tercer Milenio. This urban renewal plan did not reduce this concentration of crime, but rather forced it relocate to the center of Voto Nacional in El Bronx.

Today, the City of Bogotá plans to continue its urban renewal efforts by completing an array of large-scale projects surrounding Voto Nacional, and most notably, it intends to clear El Bronx. Buildings that once housed torture chambers and hid child prostitutes, have been seized by the government. These buildings are in the process of being demolished. The government is continuing to apply a physical based approach to urban renewal that does not address the economic and social well-being of residents and victims of this crime.

Physical interventions alone cannot address the issues facing the neighborhood. Programs and interventions that address the needs of people are not only critical to reducing violence, but also critical to setting the foundation for the future of this community. Voto Nacional has the potential to be a community that is defined by empowered people that are stewards of the place that they live.

A RESPONSIBLE RENEWAL PLAN
This plan, A Responsible Urban Renewal Plan, seeks to provide an alternative approach to physical urban renewal that puts the well-being of people at its core.   Urban renewal has the opportunity to heal and mend a community that has suffered from decades of crime and disinvestment.  For renewal to be successful in this context, it is critical to focus on supporting those most afflicted by poverty. A responsible approach to renewal is possible, and can exemplify the best of planning approaches that couple innovative programs with thoughtful spatial change.

This plan, A Responsible Renewal Plan, recommends programs and interventions that put people first. 

Our Responsible Renewal Plan includes six goals, which together will create a bright future for the people of Voto Nacional:
1. Housing Opportunities for People of All Incomes
2. Empowerment of Women & Children
3. Neighborhood and Regional Connectivity
4. Economic Opportunities that Crate Wealth
5. Safe & Human Scale Public Realm
6. Sustainable & Green Neighborhood

To reach these goals, our plan outlines a set of both broad and specific interventions. At the center of our people-first plan is a series of social programs, community spaces and economic development programs that create a neighborhood of empowered people. These programs are supported by a framework plan, which will guide future redevelopment in the district—creating a modernized version of the City’s traditional Laws of the Indies Indies, in order to cultivate a strong sense of place that supports social, economic and environmental resiliency. We support these plans through a financial structure, which demonstrates how public-private partnerships can leverage market-rate development to fund housing and social programs. We brought additional specificity to our proposal through an urban design framework, which outlines how future developments in Voto Nacional should be designed and scaled. 

Together, our proposed systems provide a more responsible alternative to the City of Bogotá’s existing urban renewal framework and will help to create a more vibrant Voto Nacional. We think that our people-first approach, if implemented, could serve as a pilot version of a new approach to renewal and revitalization in Bogotá and Colombia as a whole—providing valuable insights into ways of investing in people in order to address critical local challenges.