The National Heritage Institute is cracking down on zoning violations in Cuenca’s El Ejido neighborhood, resulting in at least 10 law suits against property owners. Some property owners are fighting back, claiming the area should not be included in the protected historic area and that their property rights are being violated. In recent years, a number of mid-rise condominiums have been constructed in the area.
El Ejido, which contains more than 200 homes, was added to Cuenca’s heritage area in 2008. It is bordered on the north by the Rio Tomebamba, on the south by Rio Yanuncay, on the east by Calle De las Herrerías and on the west by Av. Lorenzo Piedra. In total, El Ejido includes 344 hecatares.
The heritage designation requires property owners to submit all plans for property changes to the cultural heritage office for review. The office says that as many as 5% of properties in El Ejido have been modified or destroyed without permits.
Most of the homes in El Ejido were built between 1950 and 1980 although it contains a number of older structures. Prior to 1950, the area was agricultural.
María Arevalo, regional director of the National Heritage Institute says the intention of the heritage designation is to preserve the essence of the community. “There are many large, gracious homes there, most of them with large gardens and patios, and we believe they are a part of history and need to be preserved.” He said he was concerned particularly about the condominium projects in the area. “We are reviewing the permitting for these to make sure they in order.”
Arevalo say he understands the complaints of homeowners but says his office attempts to make the review and permitting process as quick and easy as possible. “We understand that many properties do not have historical significance, but others do and we need to preserve these for posterity.”
Todo Santos convent reopens
Cuenca’s Todos Santos convent complex on Calle Larga has been reoponed to the public. The complex, which included a popular restaurant, was closed for restoration in 2011.
The complex dates to the early 1700s and is famous for its bakery, which at one time was the city’s largest. Some of the original baking equipment is still used.
The restored area open to the public includes the bakery, a restaurant and back gardens that overlook the Rio Tomebamba. Religious paintings and artifacts, some of them 250 years old, are on display in the public area.
The restaurant features comida típica, offering such dishes as churrasco, seco de chivo, locro de papas, grilled beef with peppers enconfitados and garlic shrimp. It will serve Ecuadorian wines, including the Guayasamín and Gamade brands.
Much of the convent is still in use and is closed to the public.
Cuenca airline flying from Latacunga
Líneas Aéreas Cuencanas (LAC) has begun service from the Latacunga airport to Loja. According to LAC, the cost of a round-trip ticket is $99.
Latacunga has been aggressively promoting its services since the opening of Quito’s new airport in Tababela. Latacunga is 35 miles south of Quito and for many travelers, especially those from Guayaquil, Ambato and Riobamba, it is more convenient than Tababela, which often requires an hour-and-a-half commute to and from Quito. Even though it is further from Quito, the drive time is shorter.
LAC says it hopes to add a flight to Guayaquil from Latacunga by the end of the year when it adds a second aircraft to its service.
Autopista speed limit is lowered
The speed limit on parts of the Cuenca-Azogues autopista has been lowered from 90 to 50 kilometers per hour.
According to the Azuay Office of Transport and Public Works, the change is intended to reduce the number of accidents on the route and to protect workers and technicians working along the roadway.
Workers were busy errecting signs on the autopista last week, warning drivers to slow down.
A transport and public works spokesman said that the autopista carries large numbers of large trucks and contruction equipment and that higher speeds posed safety issues.
Photo caption: The Benigno Malo high school on Av. Solano is in the center of El Ejido.