The historic port city turned culture hub of Valparaíso is one of Chile’s most distinctive cities. Its unique character is owed in no small part to its rolling cerros (hills) – dotted by colorful houses – and the mechanic lifts, or ascensores, that transport people up and down the steepest inclines of the hills.
The ascensores were built around the turn of the 20th century in a boom period of trade for the city, which at that point was a key port in the global shipping network. Over the years however, some of these magnificent pieces of industrial architecture have fallen into disrepair and disuse.
But that’s all about to change, thanks to an urban renewal campaign – called PRDUV by its Spanish language acronym – which is headed by Chile’s Undersecretary of Regional Development and Administration (Subdere) and will invest more than US$2 million into the port city.
This September will mark the first major achievement of the campaign, with the official public reopening of three of the five ascensores owned by the Municipality of Valparaíso, following the complete restoration of the dilapidated icons.
Subdere Undersecretary Miguel Flores visited the historic sites last week alongside regional governor Raúl Celis and the mayor of the port city, Jorge Castro. Flores said that the ascensores had characterized the port throughout its long history.
“An essential objective of this program has been to return to Valparaíso the nobility of its most relevant buildings, those that give special character to the port, and through which we can generate development,” he said.
Next month, renovated ascensores will be opened in San Agustín, Reina Victoria, and Polanco, while in November a fourth will be reopened on Cerro Barón. The fifth ascensor, in El Peral, will open next year.
An additional ten ascensores that were previously owned by private companies have been purchased by regional authorities, a deal which is currently being reviewed by regulators.
“From the beginning of 2013 we hope to begin restoring them [the ten newly acquired ascensores] through a plan that will see two or three ascensores reopened every year,” said Flores.