Over the past five years, Panama City has been a virtual playground for developers. It’s resembled, at times, an over-sized children’s sandbox with cranes, heaps of dirt, and the occasional “accident” littering the capital’s streets. But what is the main difference between what’s going on downtown and that which is progressing in Casco Viejo?
The widely publicized boom of real estate in Panama City is unrestrained: a feature many travelers and investors see glamorously through the lenses of tall, shiny buildings and luxurious amenities. However, it is the limits and preservation laws of Casco Viejo’s real estate sector that draw true connoisseurs. You see, a developer cannot build upwards in Casco Viejo. A developer cannot build outwards or sideways or at an angle. He must abide strictly to the rules and regulations set forth, otherwise his project will be condemned.
Getting grandiose plans approved for renovation in this historic neighborhood is an act akin to bench-pressing a freight train. The difficulty is a way of maintaining the true size, shape, and feel of the Casco, not letting it evolve into a generic sterile place. The amount of governmental restrictions ensures investors that no off-the-cuff trend or dated-looking attributes will ever make their way to the market and because the market is so small, details are carefully monitored and agents/developers communicate closely with one another, making the out of control phenomenon of City real estate a fault purely across the bay. Companies like Arco Properties are great at explaining this to buyers as it’s a completely different game from real estate elsewhere in Panama.
In Casco Antiguo, development is booming: but it’s a different kind of boom. While real estate prices have begun to soar, there are several limiting factors which prevent the market from becoming oversaturated or…well…tacky. These include, but are not limited to, Ley 9 (mandating you do something with your building, a way to combat speculation), limited supply, and niche market consumers (as opposed to mainstream in the City).