Though bisected by the River Mapocho, Santiago is a landlocked city with little in the way of a water front. An ambitious new park project along the Mapocho west of the city center aims to change that by 2014. On Jan. 11, President Sebastian Piñera and city officials participated in laying the first stone for Renato Poblete Park, which will transform 54 acres (22 hectares) into a major outdoor recreation center.
Of the park’s 54 acres, nearly 20 will be along the riverfront (including the river itself), while the remaining 34 acres of land will include multi-purpose playing fields, a soccer field, an amphitheater and restaurants. At the center of this larger park space will be a man made lagoon covering nearly 10 acres (4 ha.) of land and varying in depth from three to ten feet (one to three meters). The lagoon will be fed by the waters of the Mapocho passing through four locks, which will regulate water levels and prevent floods in case of heavy rain. At the center of the lagoon, a fountain will project water over 270 ft (83 m) into the air.
Running west for about one kilometer from the Bulnes Bridge, north of the bohemian Barrio Yungay, the park will be named in memory of the prominent Jesuit Renato Poblete who died in February, 2010 after years of public service.
The park project, spearheaded as one of the many public works undertaken in honor of Chile’s 2010 bicentennial, is not a new idea. It first appeared in 2000 as a proposal form the Fundación Futuro, or Future Foundation, which President Piñera founded in 1993 during his tenure as Senator. At the time the project failed to garner widespread support. The symbolic breaking of ground marks the first step in realizing a dream that will be nearly 15 years in gestation by the time the project is complete.
Designed by architect Cristián Boza, the park’s present incarnation will cost a projected US$28 million, supported primarily through private funds. Minister of Public Works, Hernán de Solminihac hopes also hopes to introduce policies that will make other privately funded park and recreation facilities viable in the future.