Gated crime-free “private city” under construction in Guatemala

A new gated community under construction in Guatemala is upfront about being exclusive and crime-free:

Guatemalan developers are building a nearly independent city for the wealthy on the outskirts of a capital marred by crime and snarled by traffic. At its heart is the 34-acre (14-hectare) Paseo Cayala, with apartments, parks, high-end boutiques, church, nightclubs, and restaurants, all within a ring of white stucco walls.

The builders of Paseo Cayala say it is a livable, walkable development that offers housing for Guatemalans of a variety of incomes, though so far the cheapest apartments cost about 70 times the average Guatemalan’s yearly wage. It’s bordered by even costlier subdivisions begun earlier. Eventually, the Cayala Management Group hopes to expand the project into “Cayala City,” spreading across 870 acres (352 hectares), an area a little larger than New York’s Central Park .

Cayala’s backers promote it as a safe haven in a troubled country, one with an unusual degree of autonomy from the chaotic capital. It also embraces a philosophy that advocates a return to a traditional concept of a city, with compact, agreeable spaces where homes and shops are intermixed.

Detractors, however, say it is a blow to hopes of saving the real traditional heart of Guatemala City by drawing the well-off back into the urban center to participate in the economic and social life of a city struggling with poverty and high levels of crime and violence…

Pedro Pablo Godoy, one of the 25 architects who worked on Paseo Cayala, said it is the first project in Guatemala that adheres to New Urbanism, a movement that promotes the creation of walkable neighborhoods with a range of housing types and commerce.

Sounds like a fairly typical gated community that may simply be unusually frank about the reasons it is built and why wealthy residents would want to live there: to avoid the problems of society. I imagine some New Urbanists would not anything to do with such a project that is hardly about mixed-income development or being integrated into the fabric of normal society.

While we could focus on the exclusiveness of this new development, it would also be interesting to study whether and how a community forms in such a setting. It sounds like the developers expect some sort of streetlife, partly due to the architecture and design as well as a younger generation they are hoping to attract that want a lively urban setting. Will this actually occur? Will the perceived safety lead to more vulnerable social interactions? If so, what will this community end up looking look?

This also is reminiscent of plans to build several cities in Honduras that would have their own government and oversight.

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