EXCUSE ME WHILE I TOUCH THE SKY

Costa Rica 2018 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | FOCUS: VERTICAL CONSTRUCTION

An increase in vertical construction has been hailed as the solution to San José's congestion issues, and a number of new projects are in the process of transforming the skyline.

Costa Rica has seen a new wave of vertical construction in recent years as developers begin to look upward for new space. San José's development has been haphazard at times as the city has grown rapidly over the past few decades—Costa Rica's urban growth rate of 13.4% between 2000 and 2013 was tied with Panama for the highest in Central America. The population has become increasingly more concentrated in urban centers, with 70% of Costa Ricans living in cities as of 2016. This development has turned San José into an economic hub but also brought negative externalities familiar to overpacked urban areas; pollution, undersupply of housing and services, and congestion. The construction industry and government officials see vertical construction as a potential solution to these problems. By making better use of vertical space, the goal is to reduce urban sprawl and generate new economic activity via the construction of modern high-rise residential and commercial facilities.

The arrival of the Torres Paseo Colón marked the onset of San José's vertical boom. Costa Rican developer Grupo Inmobiliario del Parque began construction on the mixed-use structure in November 2012, and upon completion two years later, the building became the tallest in the country at just over 101m. The building became an immediate national icon and sign of the future of San José's development, but it appears unlikely to hold its title as Costa Rica's tallest building for long: several new projects are underway that, when completed, will be even taller.
Torre 40, located on the same street as Paseo Colón, is expected to begin construction in late 2017 and finish in 2019. The USD35-million office tower will have 40 stories. Funded by US developer Omina and a consortium of Costa Rican banks, the tower will have more than 61,000sqm of available office space, with developers hoping that it will become one of the premier office locations in Central America and already attracting interest from foreign investors. Expected to meet LEED certifications as an energy-efficient building, Torre 40 is an example of how this new construction can still align with Costa Rica's well-known push for environmental sustainability.
Yet, Torre 40's reign as tallest building is expected to brief as well because the 42-story Sabana Capital is on schedule for 2019 completion. Constructed by Costa Rican developer H Solís and designed by US firm Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates and Costa Rican partner Costa Rican Alberto Reifer & Arquitectos, the 521,000sqft tower will contain a 100-room hotel, retail space, and 294 residential units. At 44 stories, it will outpace the Torres Paseo Colón and Torre 40 to become the largest mixed-use development in the region.
Torre 40 and Sabana Capital are Costa Rica's flagship projects, but a host of smaller towers are in the works; according to the Federal College of Engineers and Architects (CIFA) registration of buildings 10 stories or more has risen from 15 in 2015 to 23 in 2016. The growth is even more significant in projects 25-29 stories: six such projects were registered in 2016, up from just one in 2014.
With increased densities come greater burdens on public spaces and utilities, and while these new towers should in theory allow for greater economies of scale, adequate infrastructure is needed to actually obtain these gains in efficiency. Moreover, there are concerns that the increase in office and retail space might be greater than demand.
These projects represent government and industry goals for a new urban center that makes better use of its limited space, but careful work and planning will be needed to seamlessly integrate them into the city.