High rise mania plays havoc on those mountain views

There is almost no way to stop change. Isolated societies have managed to slow change as far as their environments are concerned, but those of us who live in the city are overruled by forces beyond our control. Sometimes those forces are called development. Sometimes they seem to be “Let’s build another high rise.”

Ever since the first double tower went up in Sabana Norte blocking the view of the mountains and Sabana Park from the unfortunates living behind it, (which includes my apartment building), the let’s build attitude has reached mania heights. (No pun intended.) Next came the sky-skimming stadium, two more towers in Sabana Oeste and Sabana Sur, and now we have a very large and modern MacDonald’s handily close to the Stadium. It is only two stories but the big M is visible for miles. That is the view I currently have from my guest room/office on the south side of my apartment. Once this view was as restful as the view from the north side of my apartment.

This past week I had lunch with Grady in Sabana Sur. The changes there astonished us. Unlike the north side of the park that has lots of large homes, some discrete, if mysterious businesses, and is essentially suburban, the south side is made up of smaller buildings and small mom and pops type stores and restaurants. Times have changed. There are new strip malls with a variety of restaurants ranging from hamburgers to sushi, and beauty salons and an AM PM (which I think was always there), and now a huge three tower complex of condos/apartments is going up.

I’d like to point out at this moment that my neighbor on the south side of my building says that the original high rise (the one blocking his view) seems sparsely occupied. Of the 52 condos he figures are there, 21 windows have drapes and only between seven and nine apartments are lit up each night. There may be many reasons, only one of which could be because nobody lives in the others. When it first opened, I looked at an apartment on the 12th floor. It had a balcony with a wonderful 180 degree view. The problem was the wind at that height was so strong, I could never stay put on the balcony.

Since I love looking at apartments, I suggested to Grady that we visit the model apartment advertised on a billboard in front. A lovely young woman (they all are lovely and young in these offices, it seems) greeted us. There were diagrams of the units on the wall and three-dimensional models on a table. But we had in mind an actual apartment.

As it turned out, the building is far from finished, and the elevators had not been installed, let alone, a furnished model. We started up the white tile staircase, alongside workers carrying various tools. I soon lost my eagerness to see anything but the ground floor and outdoors. But Grady continued. They were kind enough to unlock an apartment on the floor where I stopped so I could look at something. Something was a huge expanse of white space, floors and ceilings, probably nearly 40 feet long. That was the living room dining room area. Some would find it palatial, I felt as if I would be more comfortable in that space if I were wearing a straight jacket. I politely declined looking at the bedrooms. We learned later that the price of these condos is the hundreds of thousands – I couldn’t figure out the prices exactly because they are quoted in square meters and increase $50 per square meter with each floor.

I am beginning to wonder if Costa Rica is going through its own building bubble and hasn´t realized that the customers are not there. Or maybe they don’t need customers. Ooooh dear.

There is some good news in this long running complaint. The city has been planting native trees in Sabana Park to replace the trees they chopped down. And already birds are returning to the park to enjoy what the trees have to offer, small as they are. That is probably why I for one brief moment saw a beautiful scarlet tanager on my north side balcony recently.

Note to my friends on the coasts. I hear the same has happened there.

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