Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mexico City Is Beautifying Urban Space

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mexico City Is Beautifying Urban Space

Article excerpt

MEXICO CITY * The plan is as big as this mammoth city: Turn a seedy metro hub into Mexico City's Times Square; clear swarms of feisty vendors and remodel the historic Alameda Central; illuminate the plazas and walkways of a park twice the size of New York's Central Park.

Mexico City's government is trying to transform one of the world's largest cities by beautifying public spaces, parks and monuments buried beneath a sea of honking cars, street hawkers, billboards and grime following decades of dizzying urban growth.

Despite the challenges, the ambitious, multimillion-dollar program carried out by former center-left Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and continued by his successor, Miguel Angel Mancera, is winning praise from urban planners and many residents. And it's turning the metropolis into an experiment in how to soften urban sprawl.

"It's time to tame the city," said Juan Carlos de Leo Gandara, head of the Iberoamerican University's sustainable urban projects. "Today is about giving the city back to pedestrians."

In the Alameda, made iconic in the Diego Rivera mural "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda," concrete sidewalks were replaced by marble, and makeshift vendor stands were kicked out a renovation that cost about $18.7 million. Instead of a motley patchwork of folding tables and tarps, the newly opened park, anchored by the art nouveau Palacio de Bellas Artes theater, is a sea of greenery and calm in the midst of racing traffic.

"It used to be very dark, with no lighting. It really wasn't a place to bring my son," said Alma Rosa Romero, 22, standing by the new dancing-water fountains, holding her child's hand. "Now it's beautiful."

Other completed projects include a once-neglected plaza with an Arc de Triomphe-style monument to Mexico's 1910 revolution, which has been remade at a cost of $28.6 million from a homeless encampment to an oasis where families frolic and children run through spurts of water gushing out of the pavement. …

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