Transforming the forgotten to promote a pre-environmental awareness 

Abandoned public properties and lots abound in nature less environments where only the concrete prevails. Slowly but surely, nature finds a way to take back what was once it’s home, but in toxic remain. The necessity for a vessel to promote awareness becomes clear where a pro environmental consciousness is lacking”. – Carolina Z. Claudio Reyes, 2021.

Designer: Carolina Z. Claudio Reyes
Thesis Committee Director (s): Arch. Omayra Rivera Crespo
Thesis Committee Consultant (s): Arch. José Coleman-Davis Pagán, Arch. Carola Ballester & Prof. Nayra Delgado
Location: Sector La Playita, Ponce, Puerto  Rico
Completion Date: May 2021
TOS [er]: Nildalice Berríos Negrón
Posted: May 2022

About Transforming the forgotten to promote a pro-environmental awareness:

The number of abandoned public properties and lots in Puerto Rico are increasing at a faster rate due to the economic recession and the collapse of the real estate market. Also, due to a lack of pro environmental awareness from the population and the government, many of these places are left untouched and are not considered for redevelopment. At the same time, more natural environments are being taken away from us, because of new developments, under-utilized spaces, and due to unsustainable use of resources. This leads to unsafe spaces for the enjoyment of the community and threatens the development of the natural environment. Nature and humans have an intrinsic link, and both must coexist in harmony, which is why ‘Transforming the forgotten to promote a pro-environmental awareness’ makes emphasis on managing “…the mishandled (land) for it to be integrated in the green infrastructure, interconnecting environmental spaces and integrating amenities for public use.”


[Keywords: brownfields, environment, green infrastructure, contamination, abandonment, repurpose, architecture]


Project description:

Eco Enfoque Civic Center is a place for social gatherings and serves as an active and passive recreational space for the community (Multiuse spaces, spaces for workshops, bike rentals, gardens and small businesses, etc.). The intervention repurposes a brownfield site with an abandoned historic building into a Civic Center that will play an active piece in educating the community of the importance of the environment. This project’s intention is to reinsert pedestrian activity into the city, while being a green lung for the Playita sector in Ponce. It achieves this by focusing on urban interconnectivity by working with the local businesses and public parks, such as: Plaza 65 de Infantería, passive park Enrique González, and La Moca park. The project also incorporates nearby ecosystems and native flora located in the area.



In this study, abandoned public properties and lots are considered as hidden gems to be discovered and resurfaced to their maximum potential. To achieve such a goal, the author focuses on:

  • Recognizing and emphasizing the importance and value of nature
  • Exposing negligence and mismanagement of the treatment of green spaces on our island which generate toxic brownfields
  • Studying brownfield history and the negative impact of abandoned properties on our natural environment


To understand better the historical context and origin of brownfield sites in Puerto Rico, the investigation is divided into three phases:

Phase #1 – Environmental Degradation, Reinforcement of a Pro-environmental Consciousness, and Environmental strategies

  • Research environmental pollution due to deforestation and urbanization (urban sprawl)
  • Importance of pro-environmental awareness, global efforts and local implantation
  • Laws and public and private entities that work towards our environment

Phase #2 – Brownfields and Their Impact

  • The emergence of abandoned properties and their impact on the environment and human health
  • The study of brownfield examples in Puerto Rico using the EPA internet tool Enviromapper

Phase #3 – Parameters for Possible Properties

  • Develop design strategies that can allow green and gray infrastructure to coexist together
  • Setup parameters to identify and choose a possible assessed brownfield site

Design Strategies:

The project implements design strategies such as reforestation with native vegetation, creation of greenways to link near public parks, and water mitigation techniques such as permeable pavements, rain gardens and placement of vegetation. Eco Enfoque Civic Center integrates near public parks by incorporating local ecosystems and native vegetation, while maintaining multipurpose spaces that could adapt to the various activities taken in place.


Project Program: 

  • Lobby
  • Courtyard
  • Workshop
  • Storage
  • Vivarium
  • Multipurpose rooms for fairs and expositions
  • Office
  • Bathrooms
  • Electrical / Mechanical / Storage
  • Orientation Point / Bike Rental
  • Café

TOS [er] Reaction: 

Abandoned public properties and lots in Puerto Rico is an ever-growing problem that needs to be assessed and addressed. This takes much more relevance now after hurricanes Irma and María, unprecedented seismic activity along the southeast coastal towns, as well a severe economic recession and the collapse of the real estate market. This is an important topic and I think there is an endemic lack of interest in it. There still is a lot of work to be done and projects like this one are the perfect examples of the great possibilities of these abandoned, contaminated and forgotten places. As Claudio Reyes says, “We must not forget the amount of land that is badly used and later forgotten, they can be hidden gems waiting to resurge”.