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June 05, 2009

Trouble in Moravia

My latest responsibility is to ensure the safe and timely demolition of some buildings in the impoverished sector of Moravia that have recently become a haven for crime, drug use and urban decay. As part of its local urban renewal program, the city purchased some houses and shanties in Moravia to be demolished. The space was to be used in various functions that would help achieve the main goals of the Moravia Project: increase public space, improve housing, revitalize the local economy and recreate the social fabric destroyed by decades of violence.

Unfortunately, despite acquiring the space relatively quickly and painlessly, the city has neither demolished the buildings nor monitored their status for at least a few weeks. Since then, the area has become a hideout for criminals, an open air drug market and an improvised local trash dump. It is the very sort of urban decay that the Moravia Project seeks to reverse and prevent.

When I visited Moravia last week, I saw a neighborhood booming with small-scale entrepreneurship, neighborhood solidarity, and optimism. Freshly painted houses, newly paved streets, a modern cultural center, and a brand new day care center were some of the achievements that greatly impressed some Catalan journalists who came to see Medellin´s transformation.

The recent developments surrounding these abandoned buildings are worrying and disappointing. Next Monday I will go to take pictures of the area, talk to neighbors, and see what steps have to be taken to quickly remedy the situation.

The problems surrounding this space are evidence of how fragile Medellin´s transformation is. An urban transformation as ambitious as Medellin´s requires constant attention, care and monitoring by the local community and the city administration. On the other hand, the mere fact that local residents can express such complaints to the city without fear of violent retributions speaks to the new culture and new government-citizen relationships that have begun to develop in Medellin. The community now monitors and takes care of itself, and fully expects the city administration to do its job quickly, honestly and according to their needs and desires.

Posted by Pablo Rojas at June 5, 2009 05:49 PM

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