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CUBA STANDARD — The municipality of Santiago de Cuba is renting unused and dilapidated commercial space in the heart of the historic center of the city to private merchants, the Sierra Maestra newspaper reported.

The long-term leases — which apparently factor in the cost of renovations — are part of an urban renewal plan directed by the Oficina del Conservador.

The Santiago approach contrasts with that of Old Havana, where state company Habagüanex maintains a quasi-monopoly on businesses operating in the area.

Oficina del Conservador Director Gisela Mayo Gómez said the rent will correspond to the clients’ budget and type of business and factor in renovation costs; cuentapropistas should be able to recover their investment within two years, she said. Parties interested in applying for a locale may show their plans on Fridays at 7 pm to the provincial government.

Once approved, the business arm of the Oficina will provide the lease; renovations will then begin.

Most of the locales available are along the lower end of Calle Enramadas, along Avenida Jesús Menéndez, with a few located elsewhere in the city center.

The Oficina will particularly foster community projects such as art galleries.

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