For more than a decade, city councilmembers and the historic district commission have been looking for money to renovate the Febres Cordero School on Calle Gran Colombia. “It’s the ugliest building in Cuenca and it should be one of the prettiest,” city councilman Rene Malo said in 2012, when he demanded that the building be repaired. “It looks a place where the Munster family would live.”
The money has finally been found — $8 million of it — and work will begin later this year. Felipe Manosalvas, city director of Patrimonial Assets, says that the work will be completed in phases, beginning with architectural and engineering studies which will begin in August. “Our plan is to restore the building to its original appearance and we are currently looking at old photographs and building plans,” he says. “Once renovation is complete, Febres Cordero will serve as a heritage interpretation center to memorialize Cuenca’s history.”
Built in 1883, Febres Cordero occupies more than half a city block and housed more than 1,300 grade school students until 2016 when structural problems and a collapsing roof forced it to close. The large courtyard currently serves as a city parking lot.
According to Manosalvas, much of the restoration work involves reinforcing and, in some cases, rebuilding walls that have been neglected for more than a century. “The building should never have been allowed to deteriorate to its current condition but our intention is to repair it and return it to usable space. When the work is complete, it will once again be a building all Cuencanos can be proud of.”