Caño Martín Peña Comprehensive Infrastructure Master Plan | OLIN

The Caño Martín Peña (CMP) District, a tapestry of eight communities located around a channel of the San Juan Bay Estuary, has proven itself to be both resilient and resourceful. Amidst a multitude of challenges, these communities have recognized the value of their shared social connections, harnessing their collective strength as a lifeline to survival and improved living conditions. Two decades ago, this commitment to solidarity coalesced into a unified coalition. They fought for their homes, their right to stay within their communities, and for improved infrastructure, along with greater environmental health and economic opportunities.

The Caño Martín Peña Comprehensive Infrastructure Master Plan (CIMP) was born out of this collective effort to tackle enduring environmental problems faced by the communities, especially in the context of the climate crisis. Building on the principles laid out by the 2004 Plan de Desarrollo Integral y Usos del Terreno: Distrito Especial Caño Martín Peña (PDI), the CIMP emerged as a proactive vision that effectively addresses environmental and social justice concerns. Developed through extensive collaboration with the coalition of the CMP District communities, the CIMP tackles the challenges posed by frequent flooding and a lack of adequate infrastructure.

Frequency of Flooding and Height from the Districtwide Community Survey
Typical Section through the Paseo del Caño North and South
Existing Transit Conditions Analysis

In response to these problems, the CIMP adopts a strategic approach, focused on reengineering the urban fabric and open spaces of the district to better serve the communities. It aims to mitigate the impacts of flooding from contaminated waters and to stop the discharge of sanitary sewage into the San Juan Bay Tropical Estuary, a region abundant in mangrove habitats.

Frequency of Flooding and Height from the Districtwide Community Survey
Frequency of Flooding and Height from the Districtwide Community Survey

The communities themselves, having developed informally over unconsolidated fill layers and featuring a dense residential composition, are faced with several issues. An underserved water supply, failing sewer systems, a fragile electric grid, and a heightened frequency of flooding have resulted in significant environmental burdens. The risks are further amplified by seismic threats, creating an urgent need for comprehensive planning and action.

Community Snapshots: A Profile on Each of the Eight District Communities

To address these issues, the CIMP has proposed a series of innovative solutions, starting with a housing-first approach. This initiative seeks to ensure the residents of CMP can remain within their communities, close to their social support networks. Collaborating with the community land trust, Fideicomiso de la Tierra, the plan proposes new housing models that are modernized and constructed above the flood elevation, enabling residents to relocate within their community safely.

Eras of Development in San Juan and the Caño Martín Peña District

As the new housing policy takes effect, upgraded sewer and utility services will work towards protecting water quality. These services will incorporate nature-based green infrastructure solutions to manage daily runoff, thereby protecting the health of the mangrove estuary.

Eras of Development in San Juan and the Caño Martín Peña District
Integrated Implementation of Infrastructure Strategies

The CIMP further introduces modernized infrastructure integrated into two park promenades—named the Paseos—that sit along the North and South Banks of the stream channel connecting the San Jose Lagoon with San Juan Bay. The Paseos are designed to incorporate nature-based solutions, managing stormwater while providing engineered flood protection based on climate change risk analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s AR6 report. This comprehensive strategy targets safe drinking water, sanitary water and stormwater collection, flood protection, local solar power generation, economic opportunities, and access to safe housing and open spaces.

Dynamic In-Person Engagement

With an active community engagement at its core, the planning process is deeply democratic and inclusive. A cost-benefit analysis, built on the rigorous framework of FEMA Benefit-Cost Analysis, was developed to capture community values, measuring more than just property risk mitigation. The outcome of this analysis reveals a return of over two dollars of value for every dollar spent on mitigation, creating a powerful blueprint for future community-led initiatives.

Existing Transit Conditions Analysis
Typical Section through the Paseo del Caño North and South
Integrated Implementation of Infrastructure Strategies

Moreover, the CIMP is designed to be forward-thinking, preparing for climate impacts through actionable plans, scalable solutions, and the protection of biodiversity within the San Juan Bay Tropical Estuary. The plan is designed with the needs and aspirations of the CMP District communities in mind, laying the foundation for a sustainable, equitable, and resilient future that empowers residents and protects their social capital.

Ecosystem Services of Mangroves
The San Juan Bay Estuary: A Crucial Natural, Recreational, and Commercial Resource for Puerto Rico

Caño Martín Peña Comprehensive Infrastructure Master Plan | OLIN

Designer Credit: OLIN

Client: Corporación del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña

Company Role on Project: Lead Landscape Architect

Collaborators/Other Consultants:

Architect and Local Landscape Architect: ECo Design Studio

Green Infrastructure: EDesign Dynamics, H-H Modeling

Local Water Resources Engineering: ARCADIS

Resilience Planner: SGD Urban Solutions, Resilience Planner

Economic Advisor: Barretto Bay Strategies

Ecologist: Ambienta Inc.

Energy Planning: ARUP

Transportation Engineering: VAG Transportation Engineering Consultants

Cost Estimator: VJ Associates

Structural Engineering: Jon Morrison & Associates

Local Electrical Engineer: JRR Engineers

Arborist: Palma Roja, INC.

Local Water Infrastructure Consultant: JTO Engineering

About Terren Shi 116 Articles
Terren is an emerging graduate landscape architect with a passion for design theory and history. She holds a Bachelor of Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Melbourne, which she completed in 2020 and 2022 respectively. Currently, Terren works as a sessional tutor at the Melbourne School of Design. She also contributes interviews and essays on landscape architecture and design.