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Panama's Park Avenue

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Written by Matt   
Monday, 24 September 2007 11:24
Wandering down Park Avenue in New York City recently, thumb I was accosted by a small Indian man who I think was trying to sell me a hotdog. It was an amusing confrontation in that the man tried to guilt me into giving him money, viagra sale if not for the hotdog, because he had no legs. I saw cause in his appeal and handed him a crisp one dollar bill whilst noticing the parallels of the street I was on, seek and our beloved Balboa Avenue of Panama City. Earlier that day I'd read an article from the New York Times questioning whether Park Avenue was the most majestic residential boulevard in the city or simply a waste of time. Could it be "a monotonous collection of similar buildings and constant window replacements" I think were the exact words and oh how they resonated with the little Panamanian inside of me. Or was that the Indian guy trying to grab more change?

In the early 1900's as I understood from the article, Park Ave. had more or less become the home to NYC's elite (especially around 93rd street), with perhaps the highest real estate prices of rowhouses in town. There was this unique feel, whether you lived there or not I imagine, that you were no doubt in a special neighborhood. However around 1920, luxury apartment buildings began to be erected and for a while, Park still maintained a high-end, authentic feel.

Locals claimed these towers to be the "top of the American success ladder" believing that one couldn't go up from there (in terms of social status or quality of living). As the wave of construction flowed though and more and more towers were built, the novelty began to wear off, culminating in a real estate bust in 1929 which left incomplete several major projects. [Relevance: To those who say that large project failures on Balboa are normal or "just part of the market" and that we should "not worry about them" should take note as to what such events can forecast.]

While today's towers on Park Ave. are supposedly more unique and less monotonous than their precursors, they do not vaguely represent the once-genuine real estate Park Ave. in the 1800's and 1900's. And in the ongoing designation (and expansion) of the official Carnegie Hall Historic District, many of Park Ave. high-rises are projected to be excluded. Mainly because it doesn't maintain any kind of architectural fabric or significant value to the area. [Relevance: Building dated-looking towers has been done before. (See Cancun, Waikiki, Daytona, see even Panama City some 20-30 years ago.) After a stint, these buildings will inevitably become obsolete and of little or no historic value.]

Conversely, there are certain portions of Park Ave. that will be included in the historic designation; those which stand as the perfect example of authenticity-no adjacent or nearby buildings of identical design. Experts believe this has been a factor which has greatly contributed to the steadiness of property values. [Relevance: In Panama, not only do developers use the exact same blueprints for multiple buildings in the city, they're now starting to use those same prints for towers at the beach!]

While Park Ave. is a bad example in that real estate in NYC is insane, it is a good example in showing the cause and effect of sustainable or authentic real estate within ones means, versus sterile and generic towers void of integrity. Casco Antiguo is a great illustration of this, as seems Boquete to a certain extent.

So in fifty or a hundred years, when some old people sit down around a map to designate Panama City's most remarkable real estate accomplishments of the century, what will they be looking at. Maybe they won't even be using maps by then? Who knows. Maybe they'll all be on little spaceships or something.

Source: Park Avenue; A grand residential boulevard or just monotony lane, Christopher Gray, December 18, 1988 NYT
Comments (2)Add Comment
Broken Dreams.
written by Carlito , September 30, 2007

When I arrived in Panama City I rented an apartment near Av. Balboa but during the low tide I was not able to breath since I have asthma, the smell was terrible, I had a huge headache even with the windows closed; next day I went to the hospital, I called the realtor and after many problems since the contract was already signed, I've changed the apt. for a house in the countryside.

Now I am leaving for good, upset for believing in the fake ads, for not researching more carefully before moving to Panama. Maybe some expats are happy living here but I was expecting more. Much more.
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Carlito you are not alone.
written by Chris , May 20, 2008
As a Panamenian I'm sorry for the experience you had. But I'm sure you are not alone. I believe this is the fate and will be for most people that move to Panama, dissapointment.
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 20:42