UNESCO technical team arrives in town to evaluate tram project and the renovation of San Francisco Square

Aug 19, 2014

The long-awaited evaluation of Cuenca’s light rail project and renovation plans for San Francisco Square began yesterday as a technical team from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) met with city officials.

chl tram railsThe team will review technical documents, tour construction sites and meet with a variety of officials through Thursday and will deliver its recommendations within several weeks.

Mayor Marcelo Cabrera requested the visit based on concerns that both the tram project and restoration plan for San Francsico Square will jeopardize Cuenca’s status as a World Heritage Site. Cabrera says he is also concerned that tram construction and operation could damage buildings in the historic district.

On Tuesday, the UNESCO team met with Cuenca’s Secretary of Public Transportation Gerard Fernandez and toured parts of the tram route.

The team will also meet with local architects and faculty members from the University of Cuenca who have complained that the administration of former Mayor Paúl Granda ignored their concerns about San Franciso Square renovation. They say the large, open plaza approved at the time did not take into account the history and heritage of the neighborhood.

A group of historic district property owners opposed to the tram are demanding a chance to talk to UNESCO representatives although it appears unlikely that they will get the opportunity. Cabrera said he would pass on their concerns.

Cabrera said that the recommendations of the UNESCO team will not be binding on the city.

Photo caption: Rails for Cuenca’s new tram project in the construction yard south of town.