Step inside one of the dozens of commercial galleries that line the streets of Santiago’s Barrio Italia neighborhood and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.
These old houses have been refurbished to provide space for both charming eateries and designer shops. Cafés, ice cream parlors, and restaurants live side-by-side independent boutiques that sell everything from hip clothing to bicycle accessories.
The first of these unique commercial spaces opened in Barrio Italia four years ago. Since then, six similar commercial galleries have opened, and four more are set to open this month.
Businessman Jack Arama launched the concept in 2009 by buying an old building and remodeling it to include polished floors, patios, and retail space for young entrepreneurs – all while maintaining the space’s original antique charm.
According to Paola Kaiser, the architect behind some of Barrio Italia’s first remodeled buildings, the commercial gallery concept is based on subdividing a large space into small shops. He restores the original facades of the old buildings and clears out a central patio space, which pulls visitors inside.
«Since the houses have narrow entrances and corridors, people are naturally drawn inward towards the cafes or restaurants at the end,» Kaiser told La Tercera.
This is definitely the case for Café de la Candelaria, pictured above and located at Av. Italia 1449. Café de la Candelaria not only provides tables inside its store, but also on the central patio of the commercial gallery.
Fernanda Lizana, who owns the Italian furniture store Composit and is president of the Barrio Italia neighborhood community, says the new building concept has become especially attractive to retailers because it offers a balance between residential, commercial and cultural elements.
«This is what is more comfortable to the designers and entrepreneurs who are arriving to the area,» Lizana told La Tercera.
For a detailed map of Barrio Italia’s current and new commercial galleries, check out La Tercera’s map here.