The Good and Bad of a Mall in Nicoya

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The colonial city of Nicoya may be small and have few businesses, but it is still attractive to investors.

This year, a group of businessmen announced their intention to build Nicoyán Plaza, a shopping center in Nicoya that would attract an investment of $30 million and would be located on an 11-hectare (27-acre) property at the entrance of Nicoya, right across from the KFC restaurant.

Although it is just in the design phase, the group already presented the proposal to the mayor and the municipal council in early July.


The news excites some key players in the market who believe that the project would boost the economy of the canton, but others have their doubts, worrying that people begin to lose their traditional values due to projects of this kind.

The president of the Nicoya Chamber of Commerce, Johnny Gutierrez, thinks this property development is beneficial for the canton since it generates competition and favors consumers.

“In the end, it is an open market. The mall is not going to create a monopoly,” Gutierrez said.

The Nicoyán Plaza proposal includes movie theaters, wholesale supermarkets, a food court, a bar area, a sports areas, an amphitheater for artistic events and even a bus terminal. In all, it would have 115 business places.

The Chamber of Commerce is already working on trainings with the organization’s more than 50 affiliates to support them in administrative and leadership areas, in order to take on the competition.

The company leading the project, NProperties, is also guaranteeing 15% of business places for members of the chamber of commerce.

Wilson Carazo, a consultant for the project, told this to The Voice of Guanacaste and affirmed that he is developing agreements with the investors to ensure that the more than 5,000 jobs that could be created by the place will be filled by Guanacastecans.

The Other Side of the Coin

Although Guanacaste’s economy could benefit from the mall, the tourism industry is concerned about the image that this type of development could give to foreign tourists.

Priscilla Solano, president of the Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism (CATURGUA- Cámara de Turismo de Guanacaste), affirmed that it has already been proven that malls are not attractive for visitors.

“Foreign tourists do not come to Guanacaste to go to a mall. They come to see the beaches, the natural beauty. Much less the people from San Jose who come here to get away from that,” she commented.

Solano specified that the chamber of tourism has analyzed that foreigners are looking for towns in Guanacaste that reflect the folklore, roots and nature, so a mall in Nicoya could affect the attractiveness of the canton.

The vision of businessman Wilson Carazo contrasts with Solano’s. For him, the mall would meet the needs of the peninsula. The investors have analyzed that people from Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Liberia travel to San Jose to make many purchases that could be made in Guanacaste. In addition, Liberia is the only canton in the province that has a movie theater.

Keeping People

The possibility of having a variety of entertainment could recapture Guanacastecans who migrate to other provinces in search of something different.

That is the opinion of Andrea San Gil, director of the Center for Urban Sustainability, who explained that young people in rural or less globalized areas often leave their communities to have other entertainment and employment options.

Although she clarified that she has not seen the plans for Nicoyán Plaza, she emphasized that the property integrates the bus terminal and business places, promoting a greater inclusion of the population.

Nonetheless, she pointed out that the Municipality of Nicoya and different government organizations should be vigilant in granting water permits since a building of this magnitude can struggle with the typical problems of Guanacaste.

For now, the investors hope to begin the second phase of planning, which includes all of the paperwork and permit procedures. Carazo explained that although they cannot specify the project’s completion date, they expect it to not take more than three years.