El Nodo’s Impact on Puerto Rico’s Architectural & Economic Development
Written By Natasha Yordán
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Natasha Yordán is an Associate Partner at Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón®.
FOR DECADES, MY HOMETOWN OF PONCE AND MUCH OF PUERTO RICO’S SOUTH HAS SEEN ECONOMIC NEGLECT AND INACTIVITY.
Ponce was once at the heart of Puerto Rico’s economic activity and was a place where prominent families invested and built structures that showcased grand architectural designs. However, as the focus shifted toward the North, the city fell into economic neglect and inactivity. Ponce’s historic urban center, which is one of the richest ones in architectural legacy on the island, saw a growing trend of unoccupied and shored-up buildings which fell victim to the passing of time.
Feeling uneasy about this reality and after many years of analysis, my uncle, Jaime Yordán-Frau, created a business model that allowed him to target two of his passions. By creating a program that merged both architecture and entrepreneurship, he saw an opportunity that would contribute to the economic reactivation of the urban center. He created the Fundación para la Conservación Adaptativa (Foundation for Adaptive Conservation), which houses a business acceleration program called El Nodo.
ABOUT EL NODO
El Nodo is a non-profit organization that strives to turn the historic downtown of Ponce into a hub of entrepreneurial activity for the Island and the Caribbean.
By merging architectural conservation efforts and entrepreneurship development, El Nodo believes it can create the perfect ecosystem to collaboratively create, develop, strengthen, and scale our most valuable asset: our human capital. In other words, El Nodo aims to bring new economic activity by housing entrepreneurs and their businesses within the region’s historic and architecturally valuable properties.
The Foundation currently operates from the first property rehabilitated for these purposes. It already houses around 13 emerging companies and is soon to receive about 10 additional companies this coming January.
In 2020, Puerto Rico was hit by a series of earthquakes that impacted countless properties, further deteriorating the already compromised historical structures in the urban center of Ponce. While several collapsed, others suffered severe structural damage, putting important pieces of our Island’s history and identity at risk. To take action, the Foundation stepped up once again and created the Fondo para la Recuperación de Ponce (Ponce Recovery Fund).
The Ponce Recovery Fund was able to raise approximately $40,000, which were invested in steel shoring systems that currently serve as structural reinforcement to the main facades of three historic properties. These efforts proved to be fruitful immediately when these systems were key to the survival of these structures in May of the same year when additional earthquakes impacted the South.
Among the structures affected by the 2020 earthquakes was the Frau Subirá Residence, which holds great sentimental and historical value to my family and my uncle Jaime. This residence is also the Foundation’s most recent acquisition and where upcoming efforts will be focused on.
The Frau Subirá Residence holds such great cultural and architectural importance for the Island that, when nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service of the United States Department of the Interior described the Residence’s significance as follows:
“The Frau Subirá Residence is a magnificent example of the architecture of Ponce's aristocracy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This structure is one of the remaining symbols of Ponce's ‘Golden Period’ in which families lived in the urban core, and great immigrations from Europe, Latin America, and the other Antilles had turned the originally small settlement into the cultural capital of Puerto Rico.
The ‘Criollo Ponceño’ or Ponce Creole architecture to which this building belongs is extremely important since it represents the birth of high-style native architecture, a hybrid of influences rather than the purely Spanish or spontaneous vernacular expressions of previous centuries.
In particular, the Frau Subirá Residence is significant within this genre as it was designed by one of Ponce's most well-known architects, Blass Silva. Architecturally, the Frau Subirá Residence relies more upon scale and form and the beauty of the classical elements than upon the applied ornamentation to portray the prominence of the original residents.
It also remains very faithful to the traditional vernacular house type of the region, in plan and execution, resulting in a graceful, refined version of the one-story, full-width front balcony house of the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Because of its location only two blocks from the urban plaza, the Frau Subirá Residence forms a principal and integral part of the historic urban core of Ponce.”
The Frau Subirá Residence is a grand expression of the period’s architecture that represents a legacy of history and design excellence that should be preserved to serve as an inspiration for generations to come.
Being also the residence of my ancestors and where my grandmother grew up, saving and preserving this home is an almost mandatory task.
As part of the efforts to save this architectural gem, the Foundation will be hosting an art auction on Saturday, December 10th, in Engine-4’s facilities in Bayamón at 6:30 pm. This will be the first major fundraising event dedicated to rehabilitating the Frau Subirá Residence, which will eventually serve as a hub to support startups in the South of Puerto Rico.
You can reserve your spot for the auction by accessing El Nodo’s website and making a $125 donation when clicking the Donate button. Your donation will also be deducted from your first art purchase. Take a look at the flyer below to see the list of local and international artists who will be featured in the auction:
I hope you can join us on December 10th to help save and restore the Frau Subirá Residence, as it prepares to continue its influential legacy through El Nodo. To learn more about El Nodo, visit https://www.elnodoponce.com/.