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Culture Ministry won’t budge on Legislative Assembly building permits

August 5, 2014

Culture Minister Elizabeth Fonseca on Monday rejected another request by the Legislative Assembly’s directorate to approve building permits for a new Assembly complex in downtown San José, at the legislature’s current location.

Fonseca agreed with rulings issued earlier this year by ex-minister Manuel Obregón and the Heritage Conservation Center that stated the renovation project in its current design would threaten the integrity of older buildings declared architectural and historical patrimony.

“We agree entirely with the decision issued by this ministry on March 31, 2014 to deny construction permits for this project, as it would damage the current facilities,” Fonseca stated.

Because of the patrimony declaration, approval from the ministry’s conservation center is required for construction to move forward.

Yet lawmakers are in limbo, because Health Ministry inspectors have declared some of the Assembly’s 100-year-old buildings “uninhabitable.”

Conservation center experts say the excavation called for by the proposal would damage La Casa Rosada, a structure built using an antique system of construction known as bahareque, which uses mud and bamboo.

They also said the new project’s design would disrupt views of the neighborhood, which include culturally important buildings and parks such as the National Museum, the National Culture Center, the old Atlantic Railway Station, the old Customs House (Antigua Aduana), the National Library and the National Park.

Most lawmakers support the project, which is estimated at $76 million for a new Assembly building and an additional $5 million for repairs to old facilities. Last month, a group of legislators presented a bill to remove the architectural heritage status of legislative buildings in order to proceed with construction.

During Monday’s session, legislative directory secretary Luis Vásquez filed a motion to prioritize that bill to expedite its approval, meaning it could be discussed in coming days.

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