Published On: Tue, Apr 1st, 2014

Creating a “Central Park” in the Mérida´s La Plancha District

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Opportunities to truly transform our cities are rare.  The alignment of shared vision, luck and willing partners is brief, and the odds are usually stacked against success.  But when these urban long shots do pan out, the results can be miraculous – think Monterrey´s Parque Fundidora, Vancouver´s Granville Island, and the renovation of Washington D.C.´s Union Station.

Today, we have the chance to change Mérida´s face and future with a “Central Park” that combines extensive forested parkland with badly needed sports and recreation facilities and the renovation of three historic warehouses for cultural, retail and office space.  Known as “La Plancha,” the site is the focal point of a neglected neighborhood directly north of the old train station between Calles 55 and 43, and Calles 48 and 46.  It is owned by the federal government, and includes 8 hectares (20 acres) of land and 11,000 square meters of warehouse space constructed for the railway.

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La Plancha´s History

Like most of our cities, Mérida rode into the modern age on steel rails.  In the early 20th Century when henequén made it one of Mexico´s richest cities, Mérida´s train station handled passenger traffic and mountains of fiber bales moving from rural haciendas to the seaport of Progreso.  Neither the ravages of the Mexican Revolution nor the 1918 influenza pandemic could halt construction of this monument to Yucatán´s “green gold,” with its elegant clock tower, glass-and-steel filigreed platform roof, and three immense warehouses boasting six meter “mampostería” walls.

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After decades of neglect, the federal, state and municipal governments agreed to collaborate on the train station´s restoration.  Scrubbed and stately again, the main station building reopened in 2007 as the state´s center for arts education – Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán.  But the 20 acre rail yard, together with its beautiful train platform and immense warehouses, remain a sad and neglected wasteland filled with rusting trains, wild dogs and blowing garbage.

A Modest Proposal

One year ago a group of concerned neighbors, Los Vecinos de la Plancha, planted 100 trees along the east side of the train yard as a modest first step toward revitalizing this desolate landscape.  Since December, we have met with representatives of the city, state and federal governments to promote the creation of a public park in La Plancha, and begun organizing a potent coalition of like-minded civic organizations and individuals concerned with the city´s.  These organizations include the Fundación Plan Estratégico de Yucatán, Mérida Verde, and Merida´s Cámara Nacional de Comercio, Servicios y Turismo.

This is what we propose:

  • A forested park, featuring walking paths, botanical and community gardens, and a dedicated bicycle lane around the 2 km park periphery linked to Merida´s Sunday Biciruta on Paseo de Montejo.
  • Sports fields and a children´s playground – as obesity and diabetes pose epidemic risks – to address the historic district´s critical shortage of recreational and sports facilities.
  • Renovation of the station platform and warehouses as the focus for educational, museum and performance space, restaurants and markets, artist and artisan workshops, hotel and office space…  This unique mix of culture, food and commerce, set against a dramatic backdrop of gardens and forest, would revitalize this abandoned neighborhood, restore some of its most important architectural landmarks, create a wealth of new jobs, and give tourists from Mexico and abroad one more compelling reason to visit Mérida.

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 calle48_before_afterLA-PLANCHA1

Postscript: What You Can Do

Come visit the renovated train station, walk the perimeter of La Plancha.  And while you´re looking at the old trains and crumbling buildings, imagine an expanse of forested parkland flanked by sports fields and the resurrected buildings of this graceful old train station.  Then watch these pages for updates on the progress of our public park project.

Soon we will be asking for your help as we work to create a “Central Park” in Mérida´s historic La Plancha district.

by Jack Robinson

All your questions and comments are welcome to editor@theyucatantimes.com

Mexico Travel Care

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  1. bruce says:

    I hope the scheme would include the once neglected but now much improved and renovated Railroad Museum on C 43. The new guy in charge has worked so hard to combat and overcome the disgraceful condition which the state allowed to develop over the past few years.

  2. Rich says:

    Fantastic plan. Is the plan shared and supported by the city planners? Next steps to the process?

    • Alejandro Alejandro says:

      Hello Rich, the Plancha Plan involves government, neighbors, private sector and NGO… we wil be publishing follow ups to that story soon… Thanks for your comment!

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