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Colonial City of Santo Domingo

Dominican Republic
Factors affecting the property in 2001*
  • High impact research / monitoring activities
  • Housing
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Legal framework
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Need for the adoption of a Master Plan
  • Housing rehabilitation programme
  • Tourism development programme
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Hurricane in 1999 (issue resolved)


International Assistance: requests for the property until 2001
Requests approved: 3 (from 1990-2000)
Total amount approved : 82,207 USD
Missions to the property until 2001**

1993: monitoring mission;  August 1998: expert mission; August 2001: ICOMOS Advisory mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2001

The World Heritage Centre received information from the Cultural Heritage Office of the Dominican Republic about building activities in Santo Domingo. The State Party requested an ICOMOS advisory mission to discuss the building project. The mission was fielded in August 2001.

During that mission ICOMOS found that a private international hotel chain, acting under a concession given by the previous government of the State Party, was in the process of extending a pre-existing hotel use from three to five buildings, all of which have remnants that date from the 16th century, the earliest settlement period. Original construction of the buildings is attributed to Nicolas de Ovando, founder of Santo Domingo in its present location.

Conceptually, ICOMOS stated, it is clear that the functional requirements of the proposed new use are incompatible with the existing layout of the buildings. The project’s feasibility determinations require far more room than is available in the site. Space for the new functions was being created by incorporating and expanding two structures to the south, and by a massive three-story deep excavation meant to accommodate partially underground construction (overlooking the river, and abutting the palisade, which is the natural edge of the city), as well as above-ground construction. The programmatic demands for new construction might overwhelm and distort the extant historic fabric in the southern portion of the site. In conclusion ICOMOS found that damage had already been done to the historic fabric as well as to the historic urban cultural landscape:

a)       Walls dating from the 16th to 18th century were demolished in the two buildings being integrated in the hotel;

b)       Unrecorded archaeological material from the 16th to the 20th century was lost in the process of deep excavation;

c)       The massive excavation in the patio of the buildings had destroyed the last remaining natural part of the cliff facing the river.

More damage could be caused by the infra-structural difficulties to be anticipated due to the location of the hotel.

A further point raised by ICOMOS was the lack of a reliable legal framework for interventions in the historic district that protect the State Party’s heritage effectively.

Summary of the interventions
This report was not discussed during the World Heritage Committee session.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2001

The Bureau may wish to adopt the following decision:

“The Bureau commends the State Party on its initiative to request ICOMOS’ advice. At the same time, however, it expresses its grave concerns about the damage already inflicted on the site through the building activities. It encourages the State Party to take all possible measures to mitigate the impact of the project on the World Heritage values of the site. Furthermore, the Bureau advises the State Party to improve its heritage protection legislation to avoid comparable situations in the future. The Bureau requests the State Party to furnish a report on the state of conservation of the property by 1 February 2002”.

Report year: 2001
Dominican Republic
Date of Inscription: 1990
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 25COM (2001)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.