Once Again: The Cinta Costera Struck Me Speechless

Once Again, I Was Struck Speechless

It isn’t Mother’s Day here in Panama. Panamanians celebrate their moms officially on Dec. 8. Being an American mom in Panama, though, I was treated to a special lunch with my family yesterday.

Before lunch we went to see our daughter’s new apartment. She has moved recently from a studio loft apartment in El Cangrejo to a two-bedroom on Avenida Balboa. Her new pad on the 39th floor has a truly awesome waterfront view. She escorted us out to her balcony to show it off. We stood there, looking down over the Cinta Costera and at Casco Viejo off to the right, and, as has been our experience so many times since taking up residence in Panama City, we were struck speechless.

After years of boom-level building in this city…years of reshaping the landscape at such a rapid clip that the views seem to change literally overnight…Panama is still at it. Phase 3 of the Cinta Costera, which has completely reshaped the face of Panama City, is nearly, already, a reality. This final stage of this hugely ambitious redevelopment project along the Bay of Panama has involved building a new highway, over the water, on reclaimed land, that circumnavigates the old town of Casco Viejo. Viewed from the elevation of our daughter’s balcony yesterday, it’s both an engineering and a city-planning feat.

On the ground, this most recent big-deal city-center redevelopment effort has also been the daily commuter’s nightmare. This city is torn up end to end, top to bottom, and on every corner in between. Down on the ground, we moan and groan and curse and worse every day along with the rest of Panama City residents trying to go about their day-to-day business. The Cinta Costera, the new city metro, a new children’s hospital, major expansions of the shopping malls, new condo towers, new mega-capacity hotels, the cleanup of the Panama Bay, the taking underground of the utility cables in the city center, whole new islands (no kidding…just offshore from Punta Pacifica)…it’s impossible to keep up with all the “progress”…

And, down at ground level, sometimes it’s hard to see it as progress at all. Down at ground level, it’s more a maddening mess.

But with a little perspective, you can see that the pieces are coming together. The extraordinary investment in infrastructure improvements and expansions that this country has made over the past half-dozen years has been an important part of its bigger-picture agenda to push Panama into the First World.

It’s been something to watch, the most impressive city transformation I’ve known or could imagine.

Sometimes, detoured again around more road works and sitting again in more stalled traffic, we’ve forgotten that, in fact, there is a plan in play. Yesterday we were reminded.

Kathleen Peddicord