Anyone who has visited Panama City recently knows two things: the city’s new Coastal Belt Highway improved the traffic situation immensely, and Casco Viejo ranks as one of the city’s most charming and beautiful areas.
Now the two are coming together in a way that could spell the business and cultural boom that Casco Viejo has been waiting for.
Work has begun on a new phase of the Coastal Belt Highway from the west end of Balboa Avenue (near Casco Viejo’s famous fish market) to the area dock known as the Muelle Fiscal. The project is slated for completion in 14 months, and will mean that the infamous bottleneck into Casco Viejo will vanish.
This alone will improve business opportunities and property values in the old city, but there’s more. Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli has pledged to build the nation’s first metro transit system starting in July of 2010. The project will cost close to $1 billion and take three years to complete, and the metro line will include a stop at the Plaza Cinco de Mayo, just outside Casco Viejo.
This is possibly the biggest news for Casco Viejo since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. With the long-awaited arrival of easy access by both road and mass transit, Panama City’s most colorful and historic neighborhood could be on the verge of a real development boom.
“Most of the expats living in Casco Viejo today will tell you the Casco’s appeal lies in a blend of different factors,” says Jessica Ramesch, Panama correspondent for InternationalLiving.com. “The old cobblestone and brick roads, the French- and Spanish-colonial architecture, the local flavor…all these add to the area’s allure. Those lucky enough to live or own property in Casco Viejo feel something special is happening here, and most agree 2010 will be the area’s most exciting year yet.”