The World Heritage Centre received the state of conservation report of the property on 2 February 2010. The report addresses the actions taken in response to the decisions made by the World Heritage Committee and includes additional information on conservation projects implemented at the property. The State Party also submitted information on the Sans Souci project as requested.
From 1 to 6 December 2009, a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out at the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). The mission report is available online at the following Web address: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM
a) Legislative and regulatory frameworks
The State Party reports that the draft project for the Law for the protection, safeguard and development of cultural heritage and the regulations for archaeological investigations have been submitted for consultation among governmental and non-governmental organizations for their review. These two projects are also on hold given that they will need be integrated to new provisions that are foreseen when the new Constitution of the Dominican Republic will be promulgated by the Executive and Legislative powers (foreseen for January 2010).
The Strategic Plan for the Integral Revitalization of the Colonial City of Santo Domingo (referred to as the Plan Lombardi) has been administratively approved by the Municipality of the National District in 2008 and has been gradually implemented by the entities in charge. The presentation before the Municipal Council is in preparation for the official approval. As for the operation of the Steering Committee for the Colonial City, the State Party reports that, in spite of the regulations set forth, the entity is not fully functioning yet, although activities have been implemented in a coordinated manner as proposed by the Integrated Revitalization Plan (Lombardi Plan).
The mission noted that, notwithstanding the lack of official and complete approval, the Plan is in practice used as a reference for planning, decision-making and enforcement of guidelines. It underscored the positive steps taken by the Municipality of the National District of Santo Domingo (which includes the historic centre) by creating a Direction for Built Cultural Heritage, and office for the executive management of the historic centre and an office for the operational coordination of the historic centre and their effective collaboration with the National Directorate for Monumental Heritage. The latter has also established mechanisms to streamline communication with other institutions at the national level for the rehabilitation of the Colonial City. The mission also noted that the institutions have the management capacity, technical ability and clarity for the definition of objectives and actions plans for the conservation and management of the property. Nevertheless the mission noted that it could be necessary to revise the conformation of the Steering Committee to improve the decision making process.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies welcome the newly created institutional arrangements and commend the State Party on the steps taken to coordinate all actions undertaken for the conservation of the property, particularly in enhancing collaboration mechanisms between national and municipal authorities and promoting wider social participation. They encourage to State Party to enhance current capacities by increasing the number of technical staff to address the needs of the property.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies remain concerned about the delay in the approval of the final procedures to enable the Steering Committee (created in 2005) to function and the delay on the official approval of the Integral Revitalization of the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. They consider the State Party should take appropriate measures to guarantee their approval and implementation.
b) State of conservation of historic monuments
The State Party reports that in 2009 interventions were implemented for the conservation of monuments and monumental spaces, both for conservation and maintenance and for the recovery of the urban image. These projects had the community involved and budgets have been allocated to continue to work at the property. It also reports that the inventory and cataloguing of historic monuments, with adequate cartography, has been finalized and will be presented at the Municipal Council en 2010 for its approval and official adoption.
The State Party also reports on a project financed by the Spanish Cooperation Agency to promote the economic and urban revitalization of Santa Barbara through the improvement of sanitary and habitation conditions, the recovery of public and heritage spaces, the revitalization of commercial activities and services. Progress has been made on the finalization of the assessment, the education programme focused on solid waste management, monitoring of quality of the environment, studies to improve water systems and a proposal to address visual pollution. Assessments have also been completed for the colonial forts at the neighbourhood and proposals have been made for their recovery and adequate use. Inventories for tangible and intangible heritage, systematized in the Geographic Information System will be the basis for the definition of a development plan in coordination with the socioeconomic study.
Finally, a proposal has been made to restrict vehicular traffic at Las Damas street. This will mitigate impacts on the oldest street at the historic centre and promote the revitalization of local activities. The report also mentions that preliminary studies are being conducted to rehabilitate the El Conde and Mella Avenue as traditional commercial areas.
The mission noted that the overall conservation status of the Colonial city is acceptable. It evaluated interventions carried out and considered them to be adequate and respectful of heritage values. It highlighted that investment on tourist facilities, hotels and dining venues, which have no impact on the historic centre and that recovery, and restoration projects in public spaces have appropriate designs that meet both the residents and the tourists’ needs. It also underscored that advertising is very controlled and does not represent a problem for visual pollution. However, it noted that parking has yet to be addressed and some urban development actions are still not fully controlled.
c) Buffer zone
The State Party notes that the proposal for buffer zones has been analysed in consideration to the existence of two territorial jurisdictions, the Municipality of the National District and the Municipality of Santo Domingo East. Modifications have been introduced in the proposal in consideration to the environmental characteristics and the places that will serve as limits. General regulations have been proposed for different sectors, recommending their review to be amplified and approved by each Municipality.
The State Party included information on the different sectors and the zones they will comprise as well as preliminary regulations for each.
The mission reviewed the proposal for the buffer zone and defined additional considerations that would benefit the conservation of the property. It noted that the Municipality of the National District has regulations in place that are respectful of the values of the property (for the north, south and west zones) in spite of interventions of the past and the pressures from real estate speculation, a situation that will be controlled upon establishing the new buffer zone. However, the Municipality of Santo Domingo East has approved unacceptable norms, particularly allowing the construction of buildings more than 50 levels high at the other side of the Ozama River that could have a mainly perceptive impact on the protection of the surroundings of the property. It considers the East zone at high risk from the development foreseen that could jeopardise the landscape relationship between the colonial city and the rest of the city and the seafront.
It noted two particularly vulnerable areas: the stretch of Avenida España, above the current marina, between the cloverleaf junction and the buildings of Molinos Dominicanos, and the stretch from the area of the current Sans Souci Terminal towards Punta Torrecilla. At both of these, constructions levels shouldn’t exceed 3-4 levels so as to not compromise the natural landscape.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the progress made in defining the buffer zone but reiterate their serious concern regarding the lack of coordination between the two Municipalities on this regard. They also consider that the State Party should consider as a matter of urgency drafting new regulations to halt the future developments that could potentially threaten the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity of the property.
d) Sans Souci and other development projects
The State Party submitted information regarding the project in October 2009 including the Real Estate Development Project, the study on the impact of the Sans Souci project on the Colonial City, and the Sans Souci Master Plan. No information was received on studies pertaining to environmental or archaeological impacts or on the state of construction permits, legal requisites met and the timetable for implementation.
The state of conservation report states that the project is currently in the phase of requesting permits and has already received the approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and waiting for the approval for land use to be emitted by the Department of Urban Planning at the Municipality of Santo Domingo East.
The mission comprehensively examined the Sans Souci project as requested by the Committee. It notes that Sans Souci is not a single project and is constituted by three well-defined components: cruise port, tourism marina and the real estate project.
The cruise port is already in use and port terminals were built by rehabilitating the existing Don Diego Terminal; the mission notes that the infrastructure is compatible with the Colonial City and the natural landscape of the river. It also highlighted that the current number of visitors (12 000 per month) is not having an impact on the historic centre and constitute a type of tourism that benefits the city. The mission considers they will not constitute a concern. However, it notes that other areas should be promoted to other sectors that can also benefit from the distribution of the visitation benefits.
As for the Marina Project, it is the last development foreseen in the different stages and has not been fully developed nor is there certainty it will. The mission considers that the project needs to be evaluated once developed to assess infrastructure proposals, dimensions of the intervention, and mitigation measures for environmental impact, among others.
In regard to the real estate project, the mission considers that is constitutes a major threat to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property because of the urbanization proposal at an area currently used as a Navy Base and the typology and density of use foreseen in the project, including a corporate building 50 stories high and eleven skyscrapers 30-40 stories high to be located approximately 600-800 meters from the southeast angle of the Colonial City. The Sans Souci Co. will only be responsible for urbanization works (streets and infrastructure) and 1 or 2 of the foreseen towers, the rest will be developed by investors so there are no guarantees for the control of the quality of architectural designs. The mission notes that the threat resides in the real estate project breaking the value of Santo Domingo as a group with attributes that follow an urban grid pattern of low and similar height. The homogeneity and volumetric coherence of the city is due to the respect of this characteristic at least at the surrounding areas. There is also value in the relationship between the centre and the natural surroundings and the character as a city port with a strong connection between the sea, the river estuary and the eastern bank which has maintained the relationship between the colonial urban nucleus and the left bank of the Ozama river.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the findings of the mission and reiterate their concern on the Sans Souci real estate development project at the vicinity of the property, particularly in light of the analysis made about the potential threat to the attributes that sustain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
e) Other issues
The State Party also reported on a proposal to address the visual pollution caused by aerial cables. It mentions that a process has started among private and public entities for a project to bury cables. At this first stage, responsibilities, international aid and service providers have been identified. It also noted that work has also been carried out for the recovery of marshes along the Ozama river in response to dispositions made by the RAMSAR Convention and that an outreach and awareness raising programme has been implemented. Finally, it also reports that the Commission for emergencies at the historic centre started its work in 2006 and established a first risk management plan. There is an operations centre at the National Direction for Monumental Heritage and communications equipments have been received as a donation. A detailed description of the activities undertaken by the Commission has been included.
In the framework of the Periodic Reporting exercise for the Region, the “Workshop on the preparation for the Retrospective Inventory, retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value of the properties included on the World Heritage List and an introduction to the Second Cycle of the Periodic Reporting for the Latin America and Caribbean Region” took place in November 2009 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The focal point for Dominican Republic participated and was trained on how to produce the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value which should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by 31 July 2010.
To conclude, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recognise the efforts made by the State Party in improving the efficiency and management capacity for the property, in particular the coordination of activities for its conservation, which is reflected in the satisfactory state of historic buildings and the definition of projects to address areas of concern. However, they remain deeply concerned about the planning regulations that have been approved by the Municipality of East Santo Domingo and their potentially detrimental effects on the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity of the property. They suggest that the State Party should take into account the recommendations from the mission and implement them, otherwise the Committee might consider it appropriate to include the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They particularly note the major threat that the Sans Souci real estate project poses for the property and the irreversible impacts on the perceptive relationship between the Colonial City and the most significant surrounding urban and natural landscapes. They are also concerned about the delays in the approval of the Revitalization Plan and the delays in the functioning of the Steering Committee.