VIDA was presented with the opportunity to vision and master plan one of the last remaining forested properties in central San Jose that lines one of its forgotten urban rivers– the River Torres. Costa Rica’s capital sits in a rich valley surrounded by fertile mountains of coffee, mountain villages and volcanoes, but its river systems and dramatic valleys have traditionally had their back turned on them by authorities, urban planners and developers, instead degraded by pollutants, unlawful development and invasive species. The project is a chance to inject energy and enterprise into the surrounding neighbourhoods and contribute to a long-term vision of a happier and healthier community.
The centrally located 15-hectare property has the potential be linked via pedestrian walkways along the river to ‘La Sabana’ – San Jose’s aspiring Central Park. The project complements an existing initiative in its first stages of construction called Las Rutas Naturbanas, which plans to create 25 kilometers of recreational space along two of the main river systems of San Jose, linking communities and activity centers while restoring damaged ecosystems from decades of neglect in the car-oriented urban area of San Jose.
VIDA’s master planning brief was determined after a several working sessions involving stakeholders and community groups. For forward-thinking local developers Garnier & Garnier, the creation of a vibrant public space and community comes from the bringing together of different users. The mixed-use development will offer a range of office tenancies, apartments, restaurants and retail, all accessed through a series of interconnected public spaces, including a skate park, nature-based children’s play, open space and a community amphitheater.
As with most of VIDA’s projects, the design intends to extract the maximum value possible from the property to create connection between users and their natural environment. While the site is technically large enough to accommodate the extensive parking requirements for the mixed-use development, proposing most of the parking spaces underground allows for the retention of existing mature trees and creation of diverse pedestrian-friendly spaces, offering unrivalled social value to the development. A key design feature is the pedestrian suspension bridge traversing the River Torres with views towards the sloping hills of the Central Valley.
The proposed mixed-use development will be a role model for other urban projects in the Central Valley, and support the broader vision of the future of San Jose’s river valleys and surrounding communities initiated by Las Rutas Naturbanas. Like the word ‘naturbana’, the site precinct will be a hybrid of the natural and urban environments to draw the city’s attention back to its undervalued river systems that traverse its landscape.
Central Valley Mixed Used Development | San José, Costa Rica
Design: VIDA Masterplanning + Design
Image and Text Credit: VIDA Masterplanning + Design