When he first requested the visit, Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera believed recommendations by a team of UNESCO experts might result in a rerouting of Cuenca’s new light rail system. Instead, the report received from the team two weeks ago will have almost no impact on the tram but is forcing a redesign of San Francisco Plaza, a popular market area two blocks south of the cathedral.
The report disagrees with the plaza design approved during the administration of former Cuenca Mayor Paúl Granda, which includes a large underground shopping area, saying that all vendors should be on ground level.
Based on the UNESCO recommendations, which are not binding, the city’s Historical and Heritage Areas committee will meet soon to discuss changes to the Granda plan. Committee chairwoman Nancy Quezada says she expects the city to revise the design.
Quezada agrees with UNESCO that the current design does a poor job of integrating the plaza into the historic district. “It must be part of the architecture and history of the area and the current plan does not do this,” she says. “We must carefully consider these recommendations because UNESCO is the group which awarded the historic district the title of a World Heritage Site.”
Quezada says that a redesign will not “start from zero” since most of the work of the previous design is still good. “The focus of the changes will be to the plaza itself and relocating vendors from underground.
Work on the project is already underway, Quezada pointed out, as buildings owned by the city on the south size of the plaza are being renovated.
UNESCO recommended that the vendors of Otavalo crafts remain where they are, on the north side of the plaza.
During his mayoral campaign against Granda, Cabrera disagreed with the proposed design of San Francisco Plaza but focused most of his attention on the tram route through the historic district. Following Cabrera’s announcement of support for President Rafael Correa in October the tram issue became moot. Correa supports the current tram route.