Anybody who wants to restore a building in Casco Viejo will have to go through the regular channels. First, they have submit the feasibility project to the Historical Society who makes sure that the buildings are meeting the standards of the architecture or anything that needs to be considered for Casco Viejo. They check how a certain building looked a hundred years ago.
If your project is approved, then you move on to a more defined plan, which includes items such as the plumbing, the facade, and everything else that you need to know about the restoration. Then, you will go back to the Historical Society and they will review everything to see if everything is in order and to see if you have made any changes from what they have previously approved, because sometimes that happens. Then if everything is okay, it goes to the city hall.
The city hall will review your project but they will only do that if the Historical Society has already approved it. They will once again verify everything that the Historical Society has checked and if everything is good, they will give you a go signal.
You are going to be monitored when you start the restoration. There will be periodic inspections done by the city hall. There is an inspector assigned to the project. The fire department will be involved, too. Before the occupancy permit is released, all these departments will have to approve to make sure that the standards for fire, gas, structure, and so forth were met.
There is a lot more monitoring done by the government for restorations done here in Casco Viejo than in any part of Panama City because you will be dealing with centuries old structures. When you do the restorations you have to add steel beams to the structures, redo the plumbing and the electricity and while you do these restructuring, you have to be able to preserve the architectural aspect of the place.
About 25% of Casco Viejo has already been restored. There are still a lot of old homes that are made of wood and since fire is very prevalent in Panama, specifically in Casco Viejo, the fire department makes certain that this is avoided.
There is almost no new construction in Casco Viejo; most are restorations. There may be a few empty lots but that is where the Historical Society comes in. They do their research and a lot of times, they find out that there used to be a structure there that either burned or was torn down. They will find out what category it belongs to and depending on the category, you have to restore it to its original look. They make some exceptions. For instance, if there was a wooden structure in Casco Viejo where the Panama Canal was constructed, they will allow you to restore that in concrete, but you have to cover it so that it looks like wood to achieve its original look.