Bogotá’s San Felipe arts district finds its “ADN” in Orange Economy


Visitors of Bogotá’s edgy and alternative art scene of San Felipe will soon witness a major makeover, and not one that necessary has to do with paint. As the color touted by the national government to represent Colombia’s enterprising creative spirit, President Iva?n Duque joined forces with mayor Enrique Peñalosa to designate the San Felipe Art District as an Orange Development Area, and one formally recognized as a National and Strategic Interest Project in the government’s 2018-2022 Development Plan.

With creative industries in Bogotá contributing 50% of the nation’s soft GDP output, the so-called Economía Naranja (Orange Economy) is an integral part of government policy, and one that encompasses seemingly diverse sectors, from technology start-ups to gastronomy, performing and visual arts.

By adding last month the acronym ADN (Área de Desarrollo Naranja) to San Felipe, the Ministries of Culture and Economic Development plan on developing 50 blocks of Barrios Unidos as a hub for software developers, gallery up-starts, and other creative types requiring affordable rents to grow their companies.

“Thanks to the articulation between the district, private sector, and mechanisms created by the government in its Orange Economy policy of the National Development Plan […] San Felipe will advance our goal of promoting and consolidating Orange Development Areas (ADN) in the country,” said Culture Minister Carmen Inés Vásquez.

According to the Ministry of Culture and District Institute of Arts (Idartes), ADN San Felipe will receive a direct investment of COP$500 million from private donors to begin the task of transforming existing buildings into co-work/residential spaces, including the 11-story Editificio Plura that will become the creative epicenter of the district.

As increasingly creatives opt for the work-from-home lifestyle, and tend to engage at a community level with similar-minded companies, by designating San Felipe as an ADN, the mayoralty and national government believe outsiders will be drawn to the district as a tourist attraction. Locals are also encouraged by the designation as it gives many derelict and uninhabited houses the possibility of becoming the creative homes for new tenants, who can contribute to the much-needed facelift of a neighborhood regarded by many Bogotanos to be unsafe. For the members of the San Felipe Association, a non-profit that works to safeguard and promote the interests of residents, one objective is to reach out to an estimated 10,000 yearly visitors with a permanent art circuit that connects artists’ studios with galleries.

While many city dwellers are familiar with San Felipe because of the mid-year Bogotá Chamber of Commerce sponsored art event ARTBO Fin de Semana, by designating the neighborhood as an Orange Development Area, the creative slate will grow to include animation workshops, dance companies and culinary pop-ups, to name a few.

For María Claudia López, Bogotá’s Secretary of Culture, Recreation and Sports, San Felipe is one of the 11 ADN’s in the capital, and an “important reference that allows others to replicate the model.”

Following in the steps of other major cities that have designated cultural districts, such as Miami’s Wynwood, Buenos Aires’ Barracas, London’s King’s Cross and Sydney’s Surrey Hills, by being ranked within Colombia as a ADN, creatives planning on migrating to San Felipe can apply for Orange Economy low-interest grants and tax deductions. These benefits, however, are subject to return of investment and job generation.

The launch last year of Bogotá’s first creative district – Bronx Distrito Creativo – at the heart of Calle Milla, a street that until 2016 was synonymous with crime, drugs and prostitution, marked an opportunity for the district to classify other creative areas within its Territorial Ordinance Plan (POT), which include a Gastronomy Zone in Chapinero, the Parque 93, La Candelaria/Santa Fe, Fontibón, Usaquén, Teusaquillo, and Centro Internacional. A block of the Avenida Caracas, at the height of Calle 57, known as “La Playa, “is also listed as one of the capital’s more curious draws for its congregation of mariachi ensembles and 24/7 clientele.

From developing graffiti tourism in historic La Candelaria and in the industrial zone of Puente Aranda to promoting the capital’s bustling restaurant and nightlife, which gives employment to hundreds of thousands of workers, in the words of President Duque, Bogotá “is committed to cultural infrastructure.”

For Secretariat of Culture María Claudia López, Bogotá goes that much further as, “the first city in the country to have legislated public policy based on creative potential, and also the first in the world to have one that genuinely reflects citizen culture.”


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