Puerto Encantado is located along the northern shore off the coast of Venezuela approximately 120 km from the capital city Caracas. It uses a compact mixed-use urban model that places pedestrians, bikers and universal access at the center of design decisions.
Puerto Encantado was first developed in the early 1980s as a vacation destination for families living in the nearby capital of Caracas. Today a new development phase is underway that encourages more pedestrian friendly and ecologically sustainable practices within its design and construction. The new 140-hectare site adopts a compact urban model in terms of population density and land use. Approximately 420 persons per hectare is the target density, which corresponds with the index recommended by the United Nations for walkable cities. Mixed land use is the most prevalent zoning at Puerto Encantado; uses include residential and student housing, retail, hotels, a new university campus, generous public spaces and plazas, as well as playfields and sports facilities, which are intended to create a greater sense of place for the community. It also represents an important contribution to local economic growth, by creating new services and employment opportunities.
The project has been structured into six construction phases, which will reach completion around 2030; currently the 5th and 6th phases are already underway. It will accommodate 30.000 new inhabitants, who will feel motivated to leave their cars parked and walk on shaded sidewalks or use their bicycles along dedicated bike lanes. A network of connected public spaces can be enjoyed 365 days a year, thanks to a warm year round climate. Average temperatures oscillate between 29 and 35 Celsius degrees, making heat-reducing strategies critical to the success of a walkable, outdoor urban model. Trees with dense foliage accompany all sidewalks and pergolas are interspersed along corridors and coupled with kiosks. All vegetation is indigenous to the site in order to reduce irrigation demands, which are met with treated sewage water from the properties.
Water canals carve out the center of the new development, occupying 70 hectares of the site. Each property enjoys private, direct access to the water. Two public waterside promenades along the canal, one at each end of the site, also provide open waterfront access that can be used in a variety of ways. Extensive corridors, invite people to walk, bike or run along the water edge. There are also protected shaded areas for relaxation, and play fields, volleyball nets, water sports, playgrounds and bathing docks for more rigorous activities. Parks, plazas, kiosks, and cafés, further stimulate outdoor enjoyment. Puerto Encantado also organizes free activities and venues for the community, such as open-air movies, outdoor markets, marathons, triathlons, concerts and fairs, to foster social engagement and cohesion.
The site´s location near the delta of the Tuy River into the Caribbean Sea makes it ecologically sensitive. To that end hydrological studies led to the design of a reserve area with flooding pools able to contain large volumes of water and mitigate natural disasters. This area will also allow visitors to encounter the natural landscape and wildlife habitat, including over 70 species of birds, at Puerto Encantado.
Efficient water management strategies have been incorporated throughout the development and in particular in public spaces. Pavement materials are porous in order to allow rainwater to percolate into the ground and decrease surface drainage. Bioswales along the edges of roadways receive rainwater, absorb much of its volume and filter out sediments and biological material before allowing the remaining water to reach the canals. Likewise rainwater that falls on the docks and public spaces is channeled toward planted gardens parallel to the canal edges that capture and accumulate sediments allowing water to filter before reaching the canal.
Altogether Puerto Encantado boasts 29.1 hectares of designed and programed public spaces that provide a promising vehicle to foster community engagement and social cohesion, which is the end goal of a more sustainable and socially inclusive urban society.