• The San Juan Daily Star

$6.7 million in FEMA funds assigned for repairs at La Guancha in Ponce

By John McPhaul

An obligation of over $6.7 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was recently assigned for repairs at Enrique “Coco” Vicéns Recreational and Cultural Center, known as La Guancha. With the funds, permanent repairs will be made to the facilities of the iconic complex in Ponce.

In addition to being a meeting place, La Guancha is key in the economy of the southern coastal city known as the stately city (Ciudad Señorial). During regular operations, the businesses located there generated around $6.2 million a year in revenue. After the repairs are finalized, business opportunities are expected to double, and the aforementioned amount is projected to increase to $12 million, per municipal data.

José G. Baquero, FEMA’s federal disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico, said emblematic places such as La Guancha are also important in the island’s recovery. “It is a source of great satisfaction that, through these funding allocations, we are able to help restore sites that promote entertainment, family involvement and tourism, which are vital to the island’s recovery process. This is a holistic development that goes beyond the reconstruction of buildings. It is the recovery of our social, family and cultural environment.”

Ponce Mayor Luis Irizarry Pabón said the municipal administration is determined to accomplish what is needed to boost the city’s damaged economy, including “all the viable alternatives that allow for that surge in commercial and tourist activity at La Guancha,” which he called “one of the most important tourist centers in the Caribbean.”

La Guancha sits on over 134,000 square meters (33 acres), where concrete columns and panels, lighting poles and its renowned 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. In addition, a total of 155 direct and 42 indirect jobs are expected to be generated once it is in optimal condition.

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