Costa Rica Limón – Redevelopment?

Victorie homes

The downtown charm of Limon's Caribbean/New Orleans, style Victorian homes flaunting long balconies and colorful façades are in need of major redevelopment.

Four years ago a few (and only a few) of Limón community leaders sat around a table one evening and talked about the future of their city. They shared dreams of how cool it would be to get their city redeveloped to attract tourist and businesses by restoring buildings, parks and renovated the port.

Last week their dreams seemed to come true when Costa Rican President Oscar Arias signed a bill providing $80 million dollars to the Caribbean port town to initiate a full-scale renovation project in five areas, restoration of cultural buildings, drainage and sanitation improvements, enhancement of municipal functions, small business development and port modernization and to boost the goal of attracting nearly $900 million in additional private investments. Will it happen?

Many Limón businesses have their doubts, knowing, governments has it promises and then does not come through, sorta like a “I’ll Believe it when I see it.”

Historical Railroad Equipment litter Limon Costa Rica

Historical Railroad Equipment litter Limon, Costa Rica

Limón has its problems. Go to any tourist blog, and red flags litter the internet on Limón. Most posts are blunt, “Stay away from Limón, it is full of filth and crime” – the increasing crime alerts makes San Jose look like a church reunion. “Limón is now controlled by drug traffickers

Problems started when the multinational giant United Fruit Company pulled it operation out of Limón in the late 1960s. When at its prime it brought in thousands of immigrants, built the railroad (which was destroyed by back to back hurricanes a while back) roads, homes and commercial buildings, and most important repaired roads and bridges, and managed the daily operations of the port. It was their money that kept Limon alive.

After United Fruit Company, the Costa Rican government established the Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA) to manage the port and improve it, which in turn would provide a strong economic development to the city. Obviously that did not happen!

Limón has always been put on the backburner to development for a reason I do not understand. Its port is a major revenue  for the government, where 80 percent of the country’s commerce passes through its doors every day. And with Costa Ricas high import fees, it would seem to me they would kick some of that money to improve the area, instead, they (government) have taken advantage of it like what many are saying about China investment in Costa Rica .

It does not take a Frank Lloyd Wright to see the potential of this historical city to redevelop it as so many US cities have like San Diego did to their Gaslamp area. A major tourism attraction with its shipyards with historical railroad equipment, the downtown charm of Caribbean/New Orleans, with its Victorian homes flaunting long balconies and colorful façades, the culture and charm of its people, and a stop of cruise ships.

Limon sits at the intersection of the global market and only a few recognize it.

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  1. Wow! I thought I was the only one seeing the obvious potential of Limon. I’m afraid to think of the real reason “Limón has always been put on the backburner…”.

    Let’s not sugar coat it. It’s Pure and simple racism. That’s not to say I blame it entirely on the “white” power structure. Arguably, the Limoneses share also much of the blame. I was hoping the election of President Obama would instill some sort hope and opportunity. I don’t understand why such a large English speaking community don’t leverage these language skills, which are in so much demand by the rest of Costa Rica.

    What do we have to do to empower Limoneses? They can’t just rely of their government. The have to first learn to raise their income levels that will ultimately lead to government participation and power to guide the destiny of Limon.

    This is being accomplished in third world countries like India via microfranchising. The intent is to make Limoneses more self sufficient.

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