Community house promoting positive gentrification
In the heart of Bogotá, Avenida 7 forms a mental border between the colonial touristic neighbourhood La Candelaria and the highly stigmatised Belén. The social entrepreneur Darío Sendoya has created Casa B (B for Bélen); a community house that promotes and empowers the area.
Belén is placed in the lucrative centre of Bogotá and is therefore a strategic place for developers. But the people living in Belén are mostly very poor and it is crucial to empower them if they want to stay in the area. Due to its poverty, Belén is highly stigmatised as dangerous.
Casa B; B for Belén
1 year ago Darío Sendoya fell in love with the area. Together with a companion he bought a colourful house and named it ‘Casa B’. The aim is to internally empower and externally promote the area by combining art, social responsibility and business thinking.
Casa B is a cultural meeting place for the neighbourhood where everything is done together with the local residents. The people behind the place host meetings, parties and artistic events that build knowledge, identity and pride of the neighbourhood. Through art they catch the memories of and wishes for Belén and on this basis they market the area.
I’m a gentrifier
The most common result of this type of house and activities is gentrification. The area attracts developers who improve the area physically with the consequence that the original inhabitants can’t afford to live there anymore and are forced to move elsewhere.
Casa B seems to be different. “I’m very honest, I’m not a social worker; I’m a businessman and gentrifier”, says Darío who believes in positive gentrification. To stay in the area, the inhabitants need to understand gentrification. Through meetings Casa B builds knowledge about gentrification and empowers the local inhabitants. The belief is that it is possible to improve Belén without replacing the people.
Making bridges through city branding
Through art and marketing made in dialogue with the inhabitants, the aim is to make a ‘bridge’ between Belén and the rest of Bogotá. This is crucial to the survival of the area. Among other things, the Casa B activists made a map ‘Hecho en Belén’ (Made in Belén) visualising the local production and resources in the area. This should change the connotations of Belén and make people invest in the existing processes in the area, also due to its unique central location.
Casa B is a retreat from the crowded and noisy centre
The future plans are to open an urban garden and a brewery selling vegetables and beers. Darío wants to produce a local, popular beer as there is nothing as music and beer that connect Colombians across socio-economic status. Currently it’s the parties that make the place hang together financially.
With great success the house attracts inhabitants, young intellectuals and well-off people from outside Belén. As we were leaving Belén, a sense of bohemia and poesy hit us: Darío’s strong ambitions and methods, children playing in the streets, houses in the most beautiful colours and the absence of traffic noise. Casa B is a retreat from the crowded and noisy centre.
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