By Caribbean Business on February 21, 2016
SAN JUAN – Sens. José Nadal Power and Ramón Luis Nieves presented Sunday several measures to boost the revitalization and economic, social and cultural development of Santurce.
The measures were Senate Bill (SB) 1556 for the Economic, Social and Cultural Revitalization of Santurce and SB 1546 to facilitate municipalities’ acquisition of abandoned structures.
They also announced the results of a Senate resolution following an investigation on the impact of current laws and regulations for Santurce. The Senate investigation concluded that despite the existence of laws and executive orders on Santurce, the benefits were not disclosed rigorously and therefore did not fulfill their purpose. Failure to comply with the laws and executive orders has left Santurce continues facing urban challenges in terms of security, paving, lighting, public transportation, lack of public spaces, population loss and obsolete and deteriorated spaces, among others.
Stemming from the conclusion of the investigation, Nieves presented SB 1556, which focuses on “giving back powers to Santurce communities. Santurce is not only Ponce de León [Avenue], it is also Barrio Obrero, Trastalleres and Playita,” he said.
The measure would replace the previous law’s board and create the Mesa Multisectorial – a committee composed of residents, businesses, the Municipality of San Juan, and public and nonprofit entities – which would be “the main promoter for the development of Santurce’s communities.”
The initiative also includes incentives such as affordable housing rent for people in creative industries, the promotion of green buildings and renewable energy, boosting broadband by promoting the deployment of optical fiber through policies that encourage providers to use underground public utility ducts, creating a scholarship and grants fund to finance community projects, and the creation of a plan by the municipality and Mesa Multisectorial to develop the Santurce Arts District.
Nadal Power stressed that SB 1546 seeks to “tackle the whole issue of public nuisance [properties]. In Santurce and all municipalities, there is the problem of abandoned properties, which have been abandoned for 40 to 50 years.”
He said the measure aims to allow “municipalities to expropriate them at a quicker pace, and all the taxes owed should be money the town deposits for the expropriation.”
It would also have the Municipality of San Juan creata a Community Land Bank (CLB) for Santurce, a nonprofit to manage and counteract urban decay due to the excessive accumulation of vacant properties by providing special incentives.
The efforts of the senators in the past include a $1 million contribution for the renovation of the Paramount Theater, allocating $500,000 to fix sidewalks, a bill to promote the creative industries in the sector and declaring the Sagrado Corazón area a historic zone.
Santurce is home to two universities and various other educational institutions, and has the highest concentration of museums, theaters and nonprofit organizations in Puerto Rico.