The Urban Expansion Initiative in Colombia

+ Shlomo (Solly) Angel

There are 461 cities in Latin America and the Caribbean that had 100,000 people or more in 2010. One out of seven of these cities—a total of 66 cities—were rapidly growing cities, defined simply as cities whose populations grew at 3% per year or more between the latest two census dates. Colombia is home to 9 rapidly growing cities, 5 of which are now working with the Urban Expansion initiative to make room for their growth: Monteria, Valledupar, Santa Marta, Tunja, and Yopal.

Because the built-up areas of these cities can be expected to expand at even faster rates than their populations, the cities are now busy making preparations for their inevitable expansion. In collaboration with the Urban Expansion initiative, the cities are:

  • Preparing maps of the land that will need to be converted to urban use in the coming thirty years, based on realistic population and urban area per capita projections;
  • Expanding their municipal jurisdictions so that they can execute plans in the entire area for expansion;
  • Locating a 25-to-30-meter wide arterial road grid with 1-kilometer spacing throughout the expansion area and transferring the rights-of way for all roads to the municipality;
  • Locating a hierarchy of public open spaces, large and small, throughout the expansion area, and transferring the land rights for all these spaces to the municipality.

Moving forward, the Urban Expansion initiative will continue to advise the cities as they implement their plans for urban expansion. Corporación Andina de Fomento, CAF and Financiera del Desarrollo Territorial, FINDETER — both of which are active development banks in Colombia — will work with the cities to finance implementation.

The interim report at this link (En Español) provides additional detail on the work to date in Colombia as well as a preview of what lies ahead.

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