Work resumes on ambitious El Centro residential project that connects the historic with the modern

Sep 22, 2020

By Sylvan Hardy

Construction has resumed on the Casa del Huerto residential project in Cuenca’s historic district and Juan Heredia wants to spread the word.

The street view of Casa del Huerto on Calle Benigno Malo.

“With all the disruption and uncertainty with the coronavirus, we need to let people know that we are back at work on the project,” says Heredia, a partner in the ISAM real estate group that is developing Casa del Huerto. “Before we suspended construction in March, we had a great deal of interest in the project and had sold more than half of units. We are back on the job and working toward a completion date in May 2022.”

Casa del Huerto, which in English translates to Orchard House, is located on Benigno Malo between Calle Larga and Juan Jaramillo and is the seventh ISAM project. Like the other ISAM projects, the location is one of the key attractions. “All of our projects have been in the historic district for the simple reason that this is where people want to be,” says Heredia. “This is where the restaurants, auditoriums, museums and parks are, and it’s an area where you can get around easily on foot. It’s not just the activity that goes on in the Center that makes it attractive, it’s also the experience of being in the historic heart of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Only two blocks from the Rio Tomebamba, Casa del Huerto is also accessible to what is commonly known as New Town, which is all of Cuenca outside the historic district. “There are large supermarkets, movie theaters and government offices just outside of the district, most of them just a few blocks away,” Heredia says. An added draw for Casa del Huerto is that it is only a five-block walk to Cuenca’s new tram line. “Within minutes, the tram takes you to two Supermaxis, three or four shopping malls, the airport and terminal terrestre. It is a great addition to Cuenca, particularly for those living in Centro and those who don’t own a car,” he says.

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The Casa del Huerto project features 18 condominiums, most of them built around interior courtyards and gardens.

Heredia explains that ISAM chose the Casa del Huerto property for several reasons. “First, it met our criteria for being centrally located on Calle Benigno Malo, one of the city’s most historic streets,” he says, adding that Malo is not on a bus route. “We like the fact that the old house to be rehabilitated had a special configuration not commonly found in old houses in Cuenca. It had three floors around a central courtyard; most houses in the historic district have only two floors. We were also impressed that it had two interior patios plus an orchard, in back, which will be preserved and used again to provide fresh vegetables and fruits for the people living in Casa del Huerto. In addition, it has a large rooftop that we are converting into a common area that will have fabulous views of the Cathedral, San Francisco Church, the historic district and the mountains that surround the city.”

Condos in the restored area of the project have high ceilings and some of the original features of the old construction.

Similar to earlier ISAM projects, Casa del Huerto has two distinct parts: The historic house that fronts Benigno Malo and new construction behind it. “This gives buyers the option of a historic living space with high ceilings and many of the elements of the original house,” he says, adding that baths, kitchens will be upgraded to modern standards. “There will be no sacrifice to comfort in the old portion of the project,” he says. For those with a preference for the modern, the back units will be entirely new, contemporary construction. “One advantage of being in the back is that it is further from the street and away from activity in the front portion of the project.”

ISAM partners take pride in the choice of the project name. “The orchard and garden are very important and this is why we chose the name huerto,” Juan says. “The residents will be surrounded by flowers and fruit trees and will be able to enjoy the tranquility of well-maintained gardens in the center of the city. We want to offer a sense of peacefulness and this is why every apartment will have views onto the patio and garden areas.”

Like previous ISAM projects, such as Casa Juan Jaramillo, Casa del Huerto will feature a large roof-top common area with views of the historic district.

Unlike previous ISAM projects, Casa del Huerto will include two elevators as well as a common bicycle parking space. In total, Casa del Huerto offers 18 units, 10 in the old house and 8 of new construction. The units range in size from a one-bedroom, one-bath 370 sq. ft. unit to a two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,600 sq. ft. unit with prices ranging from $55 000 to $198 000.

In the early stages of construction, much of the work at Casa del Huerto involves reinforcing and updating the existing historic structure. Steel piers and beams are being imbedded in the walls, floors and ceilings to provide extra support to the original structure. “What you don’t see is very important,” says Heredia. “With the reinforcement, we are meeting and exceeding earthquake standards and we are also installing new plumbing and wiring to modern specifications. When it’s finished, you will see beautifully restored historic architecture in the old house but what’s under the surface is all new.”

Casas Cipres is a recent example of ISAM residential projects in the historic district.

To understand the architectural philosophy behind ISAM projects, Heredia invites potential clients to check out previous projects. “From the beginning, with Casa Heredia Carrasco and Casa San Sebastian, we combined historic and the modern elements and joined outdoor and indoor spaces,” he says. “All the projects have very attractive common areas, most of them with rooftop terraces with views of the city.”

ISAM’s designs have received national and international attention over the years, being featured in the New York Times, the Miami Herald and Construcción & Diseño magazine. Last year, the Casas del Ciprés project on Calle Larga, completed in 2018, was awarded the “Best Design” in Ecuador award at the Pan American Architecture Biennial in Quito as well as the second prize in the International “Best Design” category.

For more information about Casa del Huerto, write Juan Heredia at juanh.terra@gmail.com or call 099 816 2620.

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