The Cuenca municipal government is encouraging commercial development in the Barranco District, hoping to create a corridor that that mixes tourism, dining, natural landscape and historic interests.
The Barranco District, which overlooks the historic Rio Tomebamba and forms the southern limit of the historic district, has been the focal point of Cuenca history. It served as the administrative center for the Canari and Inca civilization as well as Spanish conquistadors. It was also the birthplace of Hayana Capac, the last emperor of the unified Inca empire.
Nancy Quezada, Director of Cuenca’s Office of Heritage Areas, says she believes that some commercial activity in compatible with historic preservation efforts in the Barranco. “We are monitoring development activities carefully to make sure they meet our established standards and don’t detract from the city’s heritage.”
Although three hostals and two restaurants already operate in the Barranco, on Paseo Tres de Noviembre, a larger hotel, a nightclub and a restaurant are on their way. The hotel, located just east of the Broken Bridge, should be completed by the end of the year.
One of the new entries, the Mayu restaurant and bar, has been drawing crowds of young professionals, tourists and expats since the beginning of the year. “It’s a great addition to the area,” said part-time Cuenca expat Lars Englar. “It’s sophisticated with a good menu and the best selection of beer in town. It’s the sort of place the town needs more of,” he said. Mayu is located just east of the Hotel Crespo escalinata, opposite the river.
There are also new restaurants and stores across the Tomebamba River, on 12 de Abril. The renovated Esquina de la Artes has opened a coffee shop, MeLatte, and a full-service restaurant, Placita. “MeLatte is a great place to hang out and Placita has great prices for full meals,” Englar said.
On Calle Larga, above the riverside, at least seven new restaurants, including the high-end Mercado, have opened within the last year.
This is all good news to Quezada. “That’s the idea, to make the Barranco fun and place where people want to go.”
She says that all existing properties in the Barranco have been inventoried to make sure businesses do not change their character and that height and design requirements of new construction is being monitored. The hotel project was asked to make several changes to the original plans, including eliminating a fourth floor and installing a rooftop garden that will be visible from Calle Larga.
Quezada adds that, in addition to encouraging business development, her office is pleased to see construction of high-end residential units, such as two projects on the river, just west of Centenary Bridge. One is almost complete while the second just broke ground.