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Ponce gets $6.7M from FEMA to repair cultural facilities

The Enrique “Coco” Vicéns Recreational and Cultural Center, known as “La Guancha” in Ponce, received a $6.7 million allocation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for permanent repairs, the agency announced.

In addition to being a meeting place, the iconic complex in the island’s second-largest town is key for its economy. During regular operations, the businesses located there generated some $6.2 million in revenue.

After the repairs are finalized, business opportunities are expected to duplicate, and this amount is projected to increase to $12 million, per municipal data, FEMA stated.

José G. Baquero, Puerto Rico’s Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, said emblematic places like La Guancha are also important to Puerto Rico’s recovery.

“It’s a source of great satisfaction that, through these funding allocations, we’re able to help restore sites that promote entertainment, family involvement and tourism, which are vital to the island’s recovery process,” he said.

“This is a holistic development that goes beyond the reconstruction of buildings; it is the recovery of our social, family and cultural environment,” said Baquero.

Ponce Mayor Luis Irizarry-Pabón, said the municipal administration has a plan in place to address aspects to boost the town’s “damaged economy, including all the viable alternatives that allow for that surge in commercial and tourist activity at La Guancha.”

The mayor believes this facility serves as a platform for creative, gastronomical and cultural businesses, and has such variety in creative alternatives that makes this “one of the most important tourist centers in the Caribbean.”

“The La Guancha area is connected to Ponce’s vision of the future, that, with a port and an airport with potential for growth and expansion, represents a real opportunity for strength and change,” he said.

La Guancha sits on more than 134,000 square meters, where concrete columns and panels, lighting poles and boardwalk will be replaced.

Of the funds allocated, $1.2 million is for future damage mitigation efforts and includes work to increase erosion and storm surge protection. A total of 155 direct and 42 indirect jobs are expected to be generated once it is in optimal condition.

Southern Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce President Luis Alvarado-Cintrón said “this recreational and cultural complex is iconic of our city and one of the most visited by thousands of people daily, being one the engines of economic development in our southern region through the tourism program.”

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

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