The Foundation for Puerto Rico is bringing together the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras, Sacred Heart University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology via a collaborative course to insert college students in the process of urban improvement in Puerto Rico, agency President Jon Borschow said Monday.
“This collaborative course emerges from an initiative named ‘Imagine Santurce’ that we have been developing, in union with multiple citizens and organizations,” the businessman said. “‘Imagine Santurce’ promotes spaces for encounters by community members where residents, workers, small business owners, and visitors of Santurce come together to share their vision and projects with the purpose of revitalizing this principal urban center of Puerto Rico.”
Borschow explained that the group received favorably the university’s integration in the process of moving forward Puerto Rico’s well-being of its economic and social future.
“We see this movement in Santurce as a microcosm of what can be done in Puerto Rico. For us it’s important that universities compliment this effort to contribute knowledge about the history, policies, infrastructure, and environmental and social challenges that made an impact on Santurce’s development. Also, students are being exposed to diverse urban challenges and can provide innovative ideas to solve them,” he further noted.
“This effort looks for a transformation of Santurce’s public spaces, encouraging open and inclusive discussions to recuperate the city from a human perspective, creating accessible spaces, advocating a healthy infrastructure and environment, enhancing interconnectivity and mobility, celebrating its diversity and facilitating accessible economic development opportunities for all,” he added.
Each university has an area of emphasis with the purpose of bringing a holistic focus of all the necessary components to take Santurce to its maximum potential.
Professor Criseida Navarro leads the UPR course, which deals with the urban design aspects and economic development. Sacred Heart’s course, which works under the Institute of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Citizenship, taught by Professor Ramón Daubon, focuses on topics about community relations and social development. Meanwhile, the MIT course, conducted by Susan Silberberg, provides support in the area of urban planning focused on the creation of new spaces in the city, where economic, cultural and social development is emphasized.
“Santurce has been an important center for the culture not only for San Juan, but also for Puerto Rico. It has become an icon of diversity and a mixture of cultures that form us as Puerto Ricans,” Navarro said. “However, urban waste and economic tendencies have made Santurce a victim of economic deterioration, physical abandonment, and social problems.”Students are taking part in a project that seeks to bring Santurce back to life.
“The elements of its true richness remain still. The visitors of this century can enjoy its music, art, gastronomy, architecture, nature, sports, and the people,” she said. “The experience of living each and one of these components in one place transforms into the door that will brighten from Santurce not only Puerto Rico, but also the rest of the world.”
The Santurce project could come to represent a pilot for all of Puerto Rico in terms of what the citizen’s role could be when it comes to “unleashing their creative energies for their own development,” said Sacred Heart’s Daubon.
“The collaboration with MIT’s graduate Urbanism program and the UPR’s Graduate School of Urban Planning will offer bachelor Sacred Heart students the opportunity of collaborating with more experienced colleagues, while providing counseling in the organization and moderation in the dialogue processes and about management of the normal tensions in the community processes,” Daubon said.
Meanwhile, Silberberg, who has been collaborating with “Imagine Santurce” since its inception, expanded on the concept of creating a new space, or “placemaking,” defined as the deliberate formation of the environment to improve public spaces, encouraging economic development and citizen lifestyle.
“This innovative collaboration is supported by Foundation for Puerto Rico, and our academic partnership will assist this effort providing information and data gathering, and better practices and analysis to take smart decisions,” she said.