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Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá

Panama
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
  • Financial resources
  • Housing
  • Human resources
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Legal framework
  • Other Threats:

    Severe deterioration of historic buildings ; Demolition of urban ensembles and buildings ; Visual impact of a maritime viaduct

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Severe deterioration of historic buildings
  • Conflicting interests of different stakeholders with regard to the use, management and conservation of the historic centre
  • Limited capacity for the rehabilitation and maintenance of historic structures
  • Deficiencies in the implementation of the legislative framework for protection
  • Lack of implementation of clear conservation and management policies for the property
  • Demolition of urban ensembles and buildings 
  • Forced displacement of occupants and squatters 
  • Urban development projects within the protected area (i.e. Cinta Costera)
  • Visual impact of the Cinta Costera project Maritime Viaduct
  • Inadequate long-term financial sustainability of conservation and management efforts
  • Financial resources
  • Housing
  • Human resources
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Legal framework
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2019**

March 2009: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; March 2010: on the occasion of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to Portobelo and San Lorenzo, a technical visit to the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo and the Historic District was undertaken, as requested by the authorities of Panama; October 2010: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2013: Joint High level World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 23 November 2018, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/790/documents/ and presents progress in a number of measures undertaken to maintain the authenticity and integrity of both components of the property, as requested by the Committee (Decision 41 COM 7B.63):

Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo:

  • Management continues to be entrusted to the private-public organization Patronato Panamá Viejo (PPV) and regulated by Law 91 (1976) and Law 16 (2007), which provides regulation to its buffer zone. In order to protect the component’s setting, land fillings are prohibited in the waterfront and a floor-to-top height of 12 meters for edifications is defined for the neighbouring areas within the buffer zone;
  • Regarding the neighbouring communities (“barriadas”), evidence from the last 30 years suggests that urban pressure and encroachments are controlled;
  • Panamá Viejo Business Centre is being built within the buffer zone. The project comprises a group of corporate buildings and warehouses. PPV has been in contact with developers and makes sure buffer zone regulations, such as building heights and facade design, are respected. A proposal for green screens at the boundaries of the property’s component is being discussed;
  • The project Costa del Mar, located at the waterfront, outside the component’s limits and buffer zone, is also under construction;
  • A Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Cultural Landscape was developed by PPV and in line with the Master Plan of Panamá Viejo. The plan highlights how anthropic elements, such as Vía Cincuentenario and continuous urban expansion, especially in the neighbourhoods of Coco del Mar (west) and Costa del Este (east), have major impacts on the property component. The Plan comprises a first analysis of environmental and visual aspects, which was followed by the definition of landscape typological units, and provided the basis for developing landscape projects. Visual impact from neighbouring areas is being mitigated with the regeneration and strategic location of green areas (fence lines, green screens, slope treatments, densification of vegetation);

Historic District of Panamá:

  • Management continues to be entrusted to the inter-institutional organization Oficina del Casco Antiguo (OCA), and its marine buffer zone protected by Executive Decree 340 (2014). The Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Histórico (DNPH), along with OCA and the Municipality are currently working on an extension of the buffer zone towards the area of El Chorrillo and Santa Ana neighborhoods, which is expected to improve control of building heights and diminish impact on the built heritage;
  • Documents on the restoration project of the Old Club Unión (Hotel Casco Viejo) were submitted and reports that the hotel’s main façade will be almost fully conserved. The hotel will accommodate approximately 239 people, the total construction area will be 20,000 square meters distributed across a ground floor, three storeys and two basement levels and will measure 16 meters high, respecting Executive Decree No. 51 (2004), which provides specific recommendations for architectural interventions and new construction in the Historic District;
  • A fire in the block of Manzana 52, affecting apartments and retail spaces in Casa Boyacá, Casa Francia and Casa Rosada, is reported.

Some other issues are also reported by the State Party, such as social housing projects in the Historic District and recent improvements in waste management and vehicular access, notably by the implementation of the “Plan del Centro” and its Sustainable Public Transportation project.

Finally, the State Party submitted a request for a significant boundary modification for the property, through the nomination file “The Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá”, which also provides in its chapter 4 relevant information on the state of conservation. The new nomination will be examined by the Committee under Item 8B (see Document WHC/19/43.COM/8B).

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2019

The State Party has demonstrated commitment towards the implementation of a number of the Committee´s requests, especially aiming at improving the conservation of the built fabric of the property, as confirmed by the recent rehabilitation of several buildings and the urban infrastructure. It is also noted that the implementation of the Plan del Centro achieved considerable improvement on vehicular access and on urban infrastructure and services in the Historic District. However, it is recommended to have a participative approach with the multiple stakeholders, involving local residents and businesses concerned in the implementation of the plan and other future traffic initiatives.

It is noted with regret that the project for the construction of the Hotel Casco Viejo, which includes the restoration of the façades of the Club Union, is under advanced construction and that the State Party did not submit the project for timely advice to the World Heritage Committee as per Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. While the restoration of the facade and the reconstruction of the building of the emblematic Club Union is appreciated, it should be observed that the hotel extension is massive and has significant impacts on the view sheds from and to the ocean and on the maritime skyline. While the project does seem to follow the height limit of the original historic buildings, its overall physical presence is imposing due to the addition of several wings. A Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) would have been appropriate for a project of such scale.

Regarding the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, the close cooperation between PPV and developers of the project Panamá Viejo Business Centre is appreciated. The full respect of buffer zone regulations and the proposal for green screens at the boundaries of the property demonstrate improvement in the coordination of local authorities in the planning process and decision-making related to the property. While the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Cultural Landscape of Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo should be noted as an interesting initiative seeking to address continuous urban pressure, its results seem rather feeble. It is also a source of concern that the regeneration of green areas cannot fully mitigate the visual impact caused by the continuous development projects built rather close to the property, in its buffer zone or immediate setting.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies concur with the need to consider improvements to the extension and regulation of the buffer zone of Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, as new high-rise developments, such as Costa del Mar, will continue to appear. In this regard, the initiative by DNPH, OCA and the Municipality looking to extend the buffer zone of the Historic District, in order to include new neighbouring areas, is highly appreciated. Such a measure sets a good precedent for an overall conservation approach to the property and a similar process should be applied to the Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo component. Finally, since this component of the property is being immerged in a highly development-oriented area, its urban dimension should be fully reflected in the policies, measures and tools adopted to ensure its sustainable conservation.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
43 COM 7B.101
Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panama) (C 790bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 8E, 37COM 7B.100, 40 COM 8B.34, 41 COM 7B.63 adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 41st (Krakow, 2017) sessions respectively,
  3. Expresses its appreciation for the commitment of the State Party towards the implementation of a number of the Committee´s requests;
  4. Notes that the implementation of the Plan del Centro achieved improvement on vehicular access and on urban infrastructure and services in the Historic District, and welcomes the initiative by the Oficina del Casco Antiguo (OCA), the Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Histórico (DNPH) and the Municipality to extend the property’s buffer zone;
  5. Regrets that the project of the Hotel Casco Viejo is under advanced implementation, that it was not submitted to the World Heritage Committee as per Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines and that no Heritage Impact Assessment was undertaken, and requests the State Party to seek the Committee’s advice regarding large-scale rehabilitation or construction projects well before their approval and/or initiation;
  6. Appreciates the close cooperation between the Patronato of Panamá Viejo and developers of new projects to be built in the buffer zone of the property, which demonstrates improvement in the coordination of local authorities in the planning process and decision-making related to the property;
  7. Also notes the development of the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Cultural Landscape of Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, but expresses its concern that in spite of conservation initiatives, visual impact and most of the factors currently affecting the property cannot be fully mitigated;
  8. Encourages the State Party to consider improvements to the extension and regulation of the buffer zone of Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, and recommends that the urban dimension of the property be fully reflected in the policies, measures and tools adopted to ensure the conservation of this component;
  9. Further notes that the State Party submitted a proposal for a significant boundary modification for the property, which takes the form of a new serial nomination to be examined by the World Heritage Committee in the present session, and reiterates its requests to the State Party to continue to ensure the necessary measures to maintain the authenticity and integrity of both site components of the property, particularly in the buffer zone and wider setting of Panama Viejo;
  10. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in 2021.
Draft Decision: 43 COM 7B.101

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 8E, 37COM 7B.100, 40 COM 8B.34, 41 COM 7B.63 adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 41st (Krakow, 2017) sessions respectively,
  3. Expresses its appreciation for the commitment of the State Party towards the implementation of a number of the Committee´s requests;
  4. Notes that the implementation of the Plan del Centro achieved improvement on vehicular access and on urban infrastructure and services in the Historic District, and welcomes the initiative by the Oficina del Casco Antiguo (OCA), the Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Histórico (DNPH) and the Municipality to extend the property’s buffer zone;
  5. Regrets that the project of the Hotel Casco Viejo is under advanced implementation, that it was not submitted to the World Heritage Committee as per Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines and that no Heritage Impact Assessment was undertaken, and requests the State Party to seek the Committee’s advice regarding large-scale rehabilitation or construction projects well before their approval and/or initiation;
  6. Appreciates the close cooperation between the Patronato of Panamá Viejo and developers of new projects to be built in the buffer zone of the property, which demonstrates improvement in the coordination of local authorities in the planning process and decision-making related to the property;
  7. Also notes the development of the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Cultural Landscape of Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, but expresses its concern that in spite of conservation initiatives, visual impact and most of the factors currently affecting the property cannot be fully mitigated;
  8. Encourages the State Party to consider improvements to the extension and regulation of the buffer zone of Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo, and recommends that the urban dimension of the property be fully reflected in the policies, measures and tools adopted to ensure the conservation of this component;
  9. Further notes that the State Party submitted a proposal for a significant boundary modification for the property, which takes the form of a new serial nomination to be examined by the World Heritage Committee in the present session, and reiterates its requests to the State Party to continue to ensure the necessary measures to maintain the authenticity and integrity of both site components of the property, particularly in the buffer zone and wider setting of Panama Viejo;
  10. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in 2021.
Report year: 2019
Panama
Date of Inscription: 1997
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2018) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 43COM (2019)
Exports

* : 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.


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