The fact that Puerta de Tierra has been included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places does justice to the unique architectural, archaeological and cultural value of this community located at the entrance to the island of San Juan.
This designation opens the door to an individual and collective revaluation exercise that takes the shape of a comprehensive development plan to brighten up the area’s heritage and its proximity to the historic district of Old San Juan.
Residents, businesses, visitors and other sectors interacting in the area between Puente San Antonio and the Casino of Puerto Rico will be able to benefit from a rebirth that respects their identity and intensifies the aspects they share.
The area is home to the Luis Muñoz Rivera Park and its Pavilion of Peace, the docks of San Juan Bay on the south side, and on the north, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean of astonishing beauty, among other distinctive features that are part of the area.
The Casino of Puerto Rico, the Carnegie Library, El Falansterio residential complex, the School of Tropical Medicine, the Church, School, Convent and Parish house of San Agustín, and Dr. Martín G. Brumbaugh and José Celso Barbosa schools are among the thirteen separate structures included in the designation.
Expanding the preservation designation to Puerta de Tierra means that the whole island of San Juan is a historic district. So it seems logical to evaluate its obvious potential to also expand its economic activity with the sensitivity this historical environment and its residents require.
Puerta de Tierra has communities with different profiles. Communities that need development opportunities share this area with modern residential and commercial facilities. There are different important initiatives for the area, such as a project to promote the arts and bring visibility to the area.
This designation should help identify other activities that will generate jobs, maintain the integrity of the community and improve their quality of life. A possible route to open up opportunities for neighborhoods and the entities representing them is to obtain federal tax exemption and access to the federal funds Congress allocated for projects in historic areas. This is good news for groups seeking to preserve local structures, such as the El Infanzón building, with the idea of establishing the Museum of History and Community of Puerta de Tierra there.
The other one is the El Falansterio residential complex, which demands a restoration in line with its elegant art deco style. It is in the hands of the Public Housing Administration to promote productive activities and skills development for work and life in this area as well as in the residences that replaced the Las Acacias buildings that have business spaces on the first floor and housing on the upper floors.
The State Historic Preservation Office, which sponsored the nomination of Puerta de Tierra until it was achieved, has the opportunity to generate viable preservation plans for the area. The potential for tourism and self-management projects for residents should also be considered, which is partly a responsibility of the Tourism Company and the Municipality of San Juan.
On the other hand, the National Trust for Historic Preservation entrusted Dr. Arleen Pabón Charneco with a hard and significant research work to defend the proposal before the National Registry of Historic Places. Her work, assisted by architect Imandra Martínez, is an example that must be replicated for the benefit of our historical heritage and our people.