El Portal de El Yunque reopens after $18.1M in repairs
El Portal de El Yunque has reopened nearly five years after Hurricane María destroyed it, following an $18.1 million investment by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
The recovery project has “a new focus on collaborative management with non-governmental organizations and broader community integration,” the agency stated.
The project, which took 30 months to complete, was led by architectural firm Marvel, in collaboration with construction firm Interlink.
Elements of the original design, including the main hall, the upper courtyard, and the water feature, were modified to give way to a newer design vision, accommodate current needs, and comply with current building and sustainability codes and standards.
New interactive exhibits, artworks, accessible trails, and interpretive panels in Spanish and English have been integrated to promote natural resource conservation education.
The 40,000 square-foot structure, located on 15 acres of the El Yunque National Forest, has 6,200 square feet of offices, collaborative work with partners, conference rooms, stock, partner-administered store, restaurant, movie theater, an exhibition pavilion, and a hall for social or corporate events.
With El Portal’s reopening, El Yunque will also premier a movie that shows visitors distinctive aspects of the forest, its ecosystems, and its historical legacy, which Puerto Rican filmmaker María Falcón directed.
Just like the original 2009 movie, Puerto Rican Actor Benicio del Toro will narrate the English version and will collaborate in the Spanish version, narrated by actress Cordelia González.
“I feel proud to be part of the effort of this group that wishes El Yunque to last,” said del Toro. “We inherited a legacy of reverence and respect for El Yunque that unites all Puerto Ricans and connects us to the rest of the world.”
This new community and visitor center will serve as a collaboration and meeting hub between partners, inside and outside El Yunque.
Vitrina Solidaria will manage the coworking space, Fundación Amigos de El Yunque will coordinate and promote events and educational activities, and Eastern National will administer the entrance station and the store.
During the re-opening of the venue, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi announced the signing of a new executive order that establishes an expanded collaboration between the local government and El Yunque National Forest to protect both its areas and the entire nearby ecosystem.
The order gives the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources permission to amend regulations so that any work or action on any property adjacent to the El Yunque is removed from the list of Categorical Exclusions and Applicable Requirements.
Before its closing, more than 600,000 people visited El Portal each year yearly and based on those numbers, the project is estimated to generate an annual income of $3 million during a normal tourism year.
This figure is expected to cover the operation and maintenance costs of El Portal during its first year.