Thanks to diligent efforts by government foundation, local business people, and determined residents, the once crumbling and derelict neighborhood of Pietermaai- a past denizen for drug dealers and shady characters- is fast becoming transformed into the most exciting, colorful, and creative district on the island. So let’s take a look at what’s happening in this trendy new neighborhood. It’s an amazing metamorphosis!
If the crumbing walls and rubbly ruins of so many ancient structures could talk, I am sure they would say that this recent rebuilding of the community is not so much a gentrification but more of a long awaited rebirth. These streets were meant to host artistic types, music was meant to waft down the narrow alleyways, and laughter and the tinkle of glasses set against the roar of a restless sea crashing upon the rocks was always meant to be its soundtrack. That’s because this was once the island’s entertainment district replete with a theater, and it hosted a close-knit and eclectic community of those who yearned to live free of the confines of an overcrowded and walled city. And once the walls came down, Pietermaai grew to extend from Punda right down to what is now the Avila Hotel. But in the 30s, people of means began moving to more suburban areas of the island, and eventually this neighborhood emptied out and the buildings were left to decay.
Though the government restored a few monumental buildings, it wasn’t until 2000 that plans to really rejuvenate the region came into play. And today, Pietermaai Smal (the inner region of the neighborhood) has blossomed with fine dining and crafty local eateries, electric nooks and cool bars with live entertainment like Miles Jazz and Mundo Bizarro. And many of the 200-year-old houses have been restored and painted in eye-popping colors, and the interesting outdoor artwork by local artists also adds to the allure.
And for those who want to stay longer than a day, now all along the seafront there are many new accommodations and rental options like PM78 Urban Oasis an eco-friendly, family-run hotel apartment beautifully re designed with private beach, open seafront terraces, and complete kitchens. Or the Scuba Lodge with their own house reef, wonderful seaside dining, and a full dive operation on site. Then there’s the Saint Tropez Ocean Club bringing a sophisticated South Beach vibe to the region replete with infinity pool, trendy dining, and classy accommodation options as well.
And this community has once again become a close-knit one, plus they are very proactive in promoting the area as the new “SoHo” of Curaçao thanks to the formation of the Pietermaai District Curaçao foundation. They also endeavor to give back; one way is their annual participation in the Art Rules program. Locals as well as visitors are loving this new vibe; the annual Christmas Fair has proven to be very popular, and their New Year’s pagara (firecracker) party is now one of the largest on the island. But it was their crazy two-day King’s Day celebrations in 2014 that really topped the charts attracting over 10,000 people to partake in all the zany and fun family contests and activities.
Pietermaai also has their own security force in place to keep the streets safe, and there’s also a hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus for easy explorations that goes all the way to Jan Thiel. You can also take a photography walking tour with a local expert to get fantastic pictures and learn the history of the region.
We snapped a few photos of our own recently. Join us for a Sunday afternoon stroll through the streets to see the transformation take place right before your eyes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlS_z_sjkMI