1 | Santiago Centro


A vibrant urban ecosystem in which unique entities (people, vehicles, green space, land uses, etc.) form a diverse fabric of movement and interactions.

Key Themes:

  • Transportation
  • Green Spaces + Public Spaces
  • Housing + Commerce + Identity Preservation


The segment of Gran Avenida between Alameda and Franklin includes the parallel but distinct streets of San Diego, Zenteno, and Nataniel Cox. The segment is strategically located near the center of Santiago and has regional importance due to a multitude of government buildings, schools, and other institutions.

The area currently has a mix of commercial and residential uses, with specialized commerce focused on San Diego and mostly residential properties on Zenteno. Building heights vary, and newer developments stand in contrast to the older character and identity of the neighborhood. Many parcels are vacant or contain dilapidated buildings, especially along Nataniel Cox. Targeted improvements that capitalize on the segment’s strengths can promote redevelopment.

There are several existing green spaces in the area but they are underutilized. In particular, the pedestrian-focused government park on Paseo Bulnes is inactive at night when the office buildings are closed. Currently, the government has plans to revitalize the civic center, including Paseo Bulnes. Transit anchors at Alameda and Franklin provide connections to the rest of the metropolitan area and will improve as new services (e.g. Metro Lines 3 and 6) are inaugurated. While the three roadways currently feel disconnected, strong cross-streets provide access and can be enhanced to encourage movement.

Drawing on the existing corridor assets, we envision a vibrant urban ecosystem in which unique entities (people, vehicles, green space, land uses, etc.) form a diverse fabric of movement and interactions. Our vision is further detailed in the following guiding principles:

  • Implement an efficient and flexible transportation system by providing mobility and access for multiple modes at their respective scales
  • Enhance the pedestrian experience by improving access to existing green spaces and creating continuity throughout the segment using public art
  • Create a place that is not only desirable for residents but also affordable for the low- and middle-income population by preserving existing affordable housing, revitalizing obsolete buildings, and developing strategies for future housing
  • Revitalize the area during the day and night by increasing density, encouraging mixed-use development, supporting small businesses, and programming community events
  • Embrace the rich history of our segment by understanding and preserving significant landmarks and lesser-known displays of identity and character

The strategies and improvements recommended to realize our vision are characterized into the following three key themes:

  • Transportation
  • Green spaces and public spaces
  • Housing, commerce, and identity preservation


1 - Bus Routes

Existing Bus Services

The existing transportation system in our segment serves multiple modes and includes approximately 20 bus routes, two metro lines, and two future metro lines. We analyzed limited transit demand data, transportation and land use data, and our own field observations to identify aspects that currently function well and key areas for improvement.

We concluded the following key findings based on our analysis of the available data:

  • Transit trips traveling to our section during the morning peak originate throughout the metropolitan area; similarly, trips from our section in the evening peak disperse to various destinations.
  • Alameda is a major destination for transit trips in the region.
  • The completion of the two new metro lines will likely change transit transfer and travel patterns near our area.
1 - Metro

Metro Service, existing and under construction

Overall Proposal

Based on the existing conditions analysis, we propose keeping the couplet on San Diego and Nataniel Cox and preserving the residential nature of Zenteno with very local auto trips only. We recommend several improvements to enhance the focus on pedestrian and bus movement while diverting as much non-local auto traffic to the highway as possible. In particular, the existing underpass for autos under Alameda (which is currently not in use due to construction on the Metro) will be extended south to Tarapacá and covered to create a pedestrian and bicycle promenade (Paseo San Diego) at the street level. The Circulation Plan below shows the proposed movement of the different modes around our segment.


San Diego

1 - Circulation

Proposed circulation plan

San Diego is the widest of the three roadways, and it carries heavy traffic northbound to the center of Santiago during the morning peak period. Two auto lanes and one bus-only lane currently serve the specialized commerce along San Diego, with sidewalks and on-street parking along the majority of the segment. The proposed cross-sections build on the existing function and form of the roadway, with enhancements to provide improved access to the commercial development and increase bus priority along the corridor.

One major proposed change is to remove an auto lane and provide a two-way cycle track. In addition to accommodating bicyclists more safely than today, this improvement is especially relevant given the number of specialized bike stores and shops on San Diego. The bus lane and bus stops will be moved to the left side of the roadway for consistency with the segment south of Franklin. The auto lane will also be restricted to buses only during peak hours based on operations of buses and autos with the new configuration.


Promenade at Alameda

As the pedestrian promenade on San Diego reaches Alameda, we recognize the need to create opportunities for connection to the northern side of this boulevard. At our site visit we observed pedestrians crossing Alameda at San Diego; however, the closest marked pedestrian crossings are located 122 meters to the west of San Diego and 115 meters to the east. We propose the installation of a traffic signal and pedestrian crossing infrastructure at the terminus of San Diego at Alameda. This crossing will create a safe and convenient connection to encourage movement to the northern part of the city center.

The cycle track on San Diego from San Miguel in the south would end at Alameda, but we recognize the major connectivity issues with this proposal. Further study of bicycle circulation and travel patterns is needed to determine a solution to address this deficiency.

This is also an important location for bus routes along the corridor. There may be opportunities to improve service by potentially creating a terminus for some routes at Alameda, depending on the number of through passengers using the service. In addition, operations may be improved by creating a bus depot or layover location to hold buses in order to regulate frequency and improve performance.


Zenteno is currently a quiet residential oasis from the busy movements of San Diego, Nataniel Cox, and the nearby city center. As shown in the cross-sections below, we propose preserving the single auto lane for very local trips and increasing the focus on pedestrians by adding street furniture, creating inviting green spaces, and aligning the sidewalk at street level. We also propose a 20 km/h speed limit to preserve the quiet residential character of the street..

Nataniel Cox

Nataniel Cox currently contains one southbound auto lane and one southbound bus lane, completing the couplet with San Diego. The primary focus of our proposal for Nataniel Cox is to increase density, commerce, and mixed-use development, which should not require many transportation interventions. As shown in the cross-sections below, the major proposed change to the cross-section of Nataniel Cox is to move the bus-only lane to the left side and possibly restrict autos from both lanes during peak periods. Consistent with the overall theme of our section, we also plan to enhance the pedestrian experience by incorporating public art and allowing room for patios and other commercial uses near the public roadway.

Green Spaces and Public Spaces


This segment currently possesses green spaces on the northern end, composed of Paseo Bulnes and Parque Almargo, and on the southern end, a plaza in front of Franklin Metro station and the recently completed Parque Zanjon. The section in between these two anchors is lacking green spaces. Our strategy for this segment includes the greening of Zenteno, the creation of a mural walk and the expansion of the public spaces at the northern terminus with the creation of Paseo San Diego.

1 - Green

Existing green space


Zenteno is the backbone of this area and has the potential to serve as a connector between the northern and southern ends of the segment. The proposal of this project can be broken down into two main phases. The first includes streetscape improvements that will enhance the pedestrian environment. Examples of interventions include sidewalk expansion, installation of street furniture, and use of landscaping that requires minimal maintenance.  The second phase focuses on the connection between Zenteno and Parque Almargo by creating a pedestrian connection between the existing buildings. Currently, these two blocks (between Santa Isabel and Diez de Julio) are occupied by Universidad Central, a supermarket, and an apartment building. By extending the connection from Paseo Bulnes through Parque Almargo and down Zenteno, there is the potential to create an inviting pedestrian environment that will draw visitors to the southern side of Alameda, while also creating a neighborhood asset for local residents.

Mural Walk

As part of a larger strategy to revitalize the area by creating a space for artists to live, work, and share, the art walk will build off of the presence of local 1 - Muraltalent to create public works of art that will draw locals and tourists into the streets. Other cities have used art walks as a way to promote local talent while bringing tourists into neighborhoods that are considered ‘off the beaten path.’ During our site visits we observed the presence of murals throughout the segment, but by formalizing a program through a municipal or national tourism entity, financial support could increase the number of murals, while formalization of the program could lead to economic benefits for the area. By using local artists as tour guides, the program would have low overhead costs, with the majority of funding going towards materials. There are also potential opportunities for artists to collaborate with local schools to develop arts curriculum and facilitate workshops.

Paseo San Diego

ZentenoAs previously mentioned in the Transportation section, we propose extending the underpass on San Diego to Tarapacá, leaving the section from Tarapacá to Alameda as a pedestrian promenade. The promenade will provide pedestrian connectivity and create a new public space as a destination for commerce and leisure. This public space will maintain the specialized book commerce, but will seek to update the kiosk infrastructure. Seating and landscaping improvements will create a leisurely environment within the bustling centro.

Housing, Commerce, and Identity Preservation


This area has a diverse set of housing types, including single-family homes, multi-family buildings of varying heights and cités. Residents in this area tend to be in the middle and lower income groups, and there is a considerable amount of vacant property in the area, which is mostly concentrated on Nataniel Cox. Due to the proximity to downtown, this area has great development potential as has been seen in the past few years with the influx of real estate development. This surge accompanied by lax regulation has lead to the construction of high-rise apartment buildings next to single story and low-rise residential and commercial buildings. In response to concerns over these developments, the city has imposed a moratorium on permits for new construction in the area. In addition to a prime location, this segment has many buildings and historical façades that should be preserved.

Our proposal for this area focuses on the preservation and rehabilitation of existing housing stock and development policies for vacant land. The housing preservation strategy has two main parts. The first is to create a type of rent stabilization policy for the area within a half-mile of Nataniel Cox and San Diego. This rent stabilization policy will ensure that those currently living in the area will not suffer any drastic increases in the price of their rent. Generally, this type of policy specifies a certain percentage by which landlords are able to raise their rent yearly. Once a tenant moves out, the landlord is free to increase the rent to market rate, but must then abide by the same yearly percentage increase once the new tenant moves in.

The second preservation strategy that we recommend is the creation of a fund to protect the cités in the area. This housing typology provides an important source of affordable housing that would also fall under the rent stabilization policy. However, we recommend the creation of a fund to support the restoration of these units due to deteriorated state of some of these properties. The value of the cité is not only in its affordability, but its unique design and historical relevance to the area.


This segment has two primary areas for commercial development: the segment of San Diego south of Matta and the entirety of Nataniel Cox.

The San Diego corridor has a strong presence of small businesses that serve specialized commercial sectors. Between Matta and Alameda, specialized bike, electronics and book commerce dominate the area with car related retail and services on Diez de Julio and leather related commerce on Victoria. The section of San Diego south of Matta does not currently possess a strong presence of small businesses, nor is it home to a specific sector of specialized commerce.

The proposal for this segment, in conjunction with the housing and cultural programming that aims to make this area a home for artists and the creative economy, includes creating the Small Business Pilot Program where the City can encourage the creation of a sector specializing in art supplies commerce. The Pilot Program can work with new entrepreneurs looking to open a business, as well as outreach to existing local businesses to offer management and financing assistance. Beyond encouraging new types of specialized commerce, this area would benefit from the opening of businesses that have commercial hours that extend beyond the traditional store hours in order to create more movement at different times of day.

Nataniel Cox has a mixture of residential and commercial uses, with no one particular theme. We envision the relationship between Nataniel Cox and San Diego as complementary in that San Diego provides specific types of commerce that attract customers from the greater region, while Nataniel Cox will provide the local services and amenities for neighborhood residents, as well as opportunities for dining and entertainment that will serve visitors and locals.

Identity Preservation

The area has several unique characteristics, including the presence of historic facades, a large market called the persa, and specialized commerce. We propose the following policies and programs to preserve the identity of the area:

  • Install uniform signage and wayfinding within the commercial district
  • Provide incentives for upkeep of historic facades by owners or tenants
  • Maintain continuity of low- and mid-rise building heights in future developments
  • Restore the persa by improving visitor amenities, rehabilitating existing structures, and developing a streetscape plan that considers street vendors
  • Install signage for the gateways to the persa from the Franklin and future Bio Bio metro stations


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