The second largest city of Colombia is clearly one of the most exciting places in South America regarding public space design.
Since its ascension to the mayor's office in 2004, Compromiso Ciudadano (an independent civic movement formed by academics, NGO professionals, businessmen and community organizations) carried away a bold urban planning scheme oriented to green and improve the city to encourage community building (plan which was extensively covered in the story, From World's Drug Capital to Green Oasis).
After eight years of leadership, the party was beat by the Partido Liberal last October and the new mayor, Anibal Gaviria, entered office in January 2012. Soon to prove his support of the strategy which worked so well for the city's PR in the past, Gaviria announced the Cinturon verde metropolitano (Metropolitan Green Belt): an ambitious project to build a 75 kilometers long (46 miles) park on the slopes of the Aburra Valley surrounding the city.
Apart from providing citizens with new recreation, education, sport and community-meeting facilities, the park will also be strategic in restricting the city's sprawl, since the areas intervened will be declared nature reserves. It will not be easy, since some of them already have development plans, and the government will have to relocate homes which are now in the slopes. (Asked by El Colombiano if this project will not in fact promote development, the mayor said that sprawl is caused by lack of control in the area, which will change with the park.)
With projected pedestrian paths, bikeways and electric-public-transport-only streets, the Cinturon Verde's cost is estimated in 500 thousand million Colombian pesos (283 billion US dollars), and will require cooperation between the state government and various mayor offices.
Given the vastness of the project, it will take decades to finish, but the government has committed to setting up the two first stretches (marked in red and yellow above), which will be connected to the city's metro cables.
In talk with TreeHugger, the Public Works office at the city government confirmed that the project will be built in four phases, the first two planned by this administration. They stated the project design should begin once the plan is approved by the Medellin Council at the end of May.
Technical and financial structures, along with the politic and normative agreements, are planned for this year, in which they also aim to finish the design and begin construction. Some sketches of the park design are being prepared but have not been released.
It's an interesting take on tackling sprawl, and an exciting project to watch moving forward. Even if some South American countries are guilty of announcing grandiose plans that never see completion, Medellin's recent history shows good promise for this one.