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FEMA assigns $7.4M to restore historic buildings in San Juan

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Iconic structures such as Santa Catalina’s Palace, known as La Fortaleza, La Casa del Libro museum/library and several historic cemeteries in San Juan will be repaired with an obligation of more than $7.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The award aims to bring the facilities to their pre-Hurricane María conditions, the agency noted. Also, funding combines nearly $678,000 for mitigation measures that will increase the structures’ resiliency in the face of future disasters.

More than $2.8 million of the funding is earmarked for work at La Fortaleza, which include the replacement of wooden floors and beams, the roof, the waterproofing system, brick and mortar walls, and historic windows and doors louvers. Mitigation measures at this site designated as a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage Site by UNESCO will include reinforcing downspouts and installing more resistant windows and doors.

The four historic cemeteries that will be repaired with $2.7 million are the La Capital Cemetery, built in 1954 with five mausoleums and a chapel; Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, built in 1863 with multiple mausoleums and located between El Morro and the sea coast; Villa Nevárez Cemetery, built in 1930 as a public cemetery with family concrete crypts; and Villa Palmeras Cemetery, built in 1920 on 10 acres with a chapel and a family-owned mausoleum.

These municipal cemeteries are in areas considered to be critical habitats for endangered species such as some turtles, manatees and the Puerto Rican boa. Work on the cemeteries will cover the removal and replacement of Victorian streetlight fixtures, jalousie wood windows, among others.

Likewise, $1.8 million will go to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture for repairs to La Casa del Libro. This space houses a collection of antique books, more than 300 published in the 15th century, and documents from 1493. Located in the Old San Juan Historic District, the site is also designated a National Historic Landmark and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.
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