Downtown Destruction In San Jose

Fonatur is making its way towards Plaza Mijares
BY: CALEB HOOGLAND

The construction and traffic mess in San Jose is about to get even worse. After about nine months of work, the Fonatur project has finally started construction near the Plaza Mijares. Couple this with the fact that the plaza itself is undergoing a major overhaul and we have ourselves a traffic disaster. By now, everyone in San Jose is pretty much used to driving on the wrong side of the road every day.

The project started in November, and is inching its way along Boulevard Mijares (the street that goes from the Hotel Zone to the plaza). Streets have been almost finished from the cemetery to the bridge that leads to the Puerto Los Cabos marina. There is just one small section left to be repaved (directly in front of the cemetery) and a few more curbs that need to be finished up.

construction.JPGFrom here, the project has already made its way into the Hotel zone, closing a section of the street in front of the cemetery directly across the street from the Grand Mayan. At least we are still able to drive through here, as traffic is redirected to one side of the street. We were informed that the entire Hotel Zone is going to receive new asphalt, end to end.

Now, Fonatur is extending their minefield of traffic detours down towards the plaza. That’s right, instead of finishing one section before starting another, they decided to split their resources.

The downtown portion of the project looks to be more complex as more than just the pavement is going to be replaced. All current sidewalks and curbs are going to be ripped up and redone. More trees and benches will be put in this area, which is supposed to look similar to the art district, located just a few blocks away. In addition, utilities are going to be placed underground and brand new sewage and water lines are going to be installed.

One of the biggest problems with the construction is that all the businesses trying to make a profit in this area. Many of the local shop owners feared they might have to shut down their businesses for a month or two during construction time, and had started preparing for the financial ramifications of the project when they initially heard about it at the beginning of the year.

But, in typical Fonatur fashion, they let everyone know a few days before they were going to start construction. Oh yeah, they also said they needed eight to ten months minimum to complete this project, not just a month or two. So, the shop owners, local businessmen, and their landlords did what any one of us would have done. They scheduled a meeting at the main Fonatur office (across from La Comer in San Jose) to protest.

The downtown section of construction was supposed to start on July 3, but local businessmen were able to stall the beginning of the first week of the project while deliberations were made and the two parties finally came to an agreement. Fonatur promised to take only four months to finish from the bridge to the plaza (2 months for each side of the street). Who knows how long they’ll take on the three blocks of Manuel Doblado (the up street that goes from the Plaza to Highway 1)?

They promised to leave space on the sidewalk for pedestrians so that all the businesses can remain open. Also, two way traffic is redirected to the other side of the street. However, that means that there is currently no parking in downtown San Jose; everyone has to park on Centenario Street, the street that runs behind the plaza, or in the parking lot next to the fire station (which costs about $1 USD per hour).

In order to finish on time, Fonatur is using two construction crews. One takes the morning shift while the other has the afternoon shift. But it’s not all fine and dandy because Fonatur refused to sign anything, making a verbal commitment only. In the meantime, all the local businesspeople have formed a committee to make sure Fonatur is holding up their end of the deal.

Local businessman Miguel Aguilar, who owns and operates Gisela Silver in downtown, said that he is just now recovering from Hurricane Odile in 2014 and couldn’t afford to close his shop for a few months while construction is ongoing. He, along with all the other local businessmen, are hoping that tourists continue to frequent the plaza area, even with all the construction going on. If they can weather the storm, the renovated plaza and Boulevard Mijares should continue to bring lots of business to downtown San Jose. If they can’t weather the storm, well… we really hope that doesn’t happen.