Wednesday, July 2, 2008

San Felipe

Today San Felipe has a birthday.

Started as project by President Fernando Belaúnde Terry, who was an archictect in regular life, the Residencial San Felipe was inaugurated forty-two years ago, on July 2, 1966. At the time, with almost 50 buildings in five distinct styles holding apartments for over 10,000 families,* it was one of the largest -if not the largest- housing project in all of Peru.

The complex was planned and built, on the grounds of a former hippodrome, as a single huge block with no cross-traffic and interlaced with sidewalks and gardens, and including three preschools and a shopping center. Over time a cooperative school and a chapel were established on the grounds and a clinic was built across the street, meaning that residents could have almost all their needs met within the Residencial itself.

Into the 1980s the Resi was a dominant feature on the Lima skyline, its 15-storey buildings topped only by the former Ministry of Education on Avenida Abancay and the Banco de Credito tower in Miraflores.

its four decades San Felipe has remained a distintict neighborhood, with many of the original families still occupying their apartments. Its mix of buildings and large green areas are unmatched anywhere else in the city, leading to lower levels of noise and atmospheric pollution within its boundaries than is the average in this sprawling city. Its gardens abound with birds and butterflies, and it is even said that they harbor an endemic type of blind snake.

The neighbors recently won an important victory when they defeated a move by the mayor of Jesús María and a grocery store chain to take over part of the parking areas and build a larger supermarket and movie theatre. The neighbors insisted that the project was unecessary and would harm their quality of life by increasing foot and vehicle traffic while reducing parking, arguing that the parking areas -like the gardens- are held in condominium by the neighbors and are not for the municipality to dispose of at will.

Confronted by the organized neighbors, who staged rallies, and weekly cacerolazos in which pots and pans would be banged together from apartments all over the resi at 8:00 pm sharp every Saturday, and a media and internet campaign, the Plaza Vea chain backed out and the mayor backed down.

*Edit: Oops! That should be "10,000 people".

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