While the city grid of La Antigua Guatemala was laid out in 1541, it seems that the concept of urban planning was abandoned after the colonial era. Over the years, many groups, including Salvemos Antigua, petitioned the mayors for an urban planning commission. For a centuries-old city, alas, we have a “new” urban planning concept today! Antigua’s City Council approved the “Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial de La Antigua Guatemala” in 2008. It is designed to promote appropriate development and land use as well as economic and social development with a lifestyle that a cultural-heritage, monumental city deserves.
Antigua is one of the areas undergoing more development per square inch than any other city in the country. This new plan states that all urban developers must be approved first by the city, through a “property usage license” (licencia de uso del suelo), before breaking ground. Any property that is to be subdivided needs to go before a consulting committee to first review public services (water, drains, electricity and property usage).
Through this new plan, a consulting council meets on Wednesdays to review projects, policies, plans, programs and projects based on the 2008 legislation. Meeting participants include the mayor of Antigua (or his representative), City Council members representing city commissions, the conservator of the city, the coordinator of the office for “aldea” (village) development and others. Main players in this “Wednesday Commission” include architect Silvia Soto (head of the city planning office), architect Adalberto Rodas (urban advisor to the city), Oscar Flores and Denise Weikart (civic society/private sector). Oscar and Denise volunteer in this important task.
While Antigua was leaning toward becoming a “shopping center” in 2008 before the financial crisis took its economic toll, this “new” urban planning review committee is essential in preserving the city. Urban planning—what a concept!