Reclaiming Planta Colón: A Small Business Development Center in Havana, Cuba

December 2015 Thesis Design by Kaitlin Eckenroth

“The projected future of Havana is likely to be driven by seismic changes in the economic structure of the city and the country. Such a situation will require the fast-paced transformation of public policy and legal norms apropos to both the forms of the economy as well as the city.”

-John Pilling, Report of the Sixth Havana Urban Design Charrette, 2012

In order to avoid a unilateral dependence on income from American tourism, there will be a need to reinforce and protect the existing Cuban economies. Assuming that the Cuban government will relax labor laws and restrictions on private business, this thesis proposes an entrepreneurial business development center in Centro Habana. In a move symbolic of Cuban heritage and reuse, the abandoned trolley station in Barrio Colon will be the first experimental site. An adaptive reuse project will not only proclaim the importance of reinforcing the existing urban fabric, this particular site will also be a symbolic reclamation of a previous community node, thus giving a deteriorating neighborhood new life.

An organic farm and green space will be the anchor in an otherwise underdeveloped neighborhood just outside of booming historic Old Havana. The existing trolley station building will be transformed in order to host a new market for Cuban goods along with meeting, educational, and business development programs with the goal of forming the first legal Cuban-American partnerships in over fifty years. The project will be a meeting place for American tourists to browse Cuban-designed artifacts, for American investors to talk to Cuban business owners, but most importantly, it will give these Cuban small business owners the tools needed to grow their business and capitalize on new American markets.