Yesterday, a 9-person team from Architecture for Humanity tackled an initial data recovery of Route de Delmas–a 2-mile corridor between Delmas 32 and Delmas 80. This mission was part of the mapping of six avenues around Port-au-Prince being evaluated for economic improvements. Being by far the largest corridor, Delmas was broken into three segments for teams to conduct mapping–which includes building conditions, sizes and uses, the logging of businesses, road conditions and circulation of people and vehicles.
Delmas is a long stretch, and the economics and demographics slowly transition as the side streets climb in their numbers and the road climbs slowly into the foothills. Along the Delmas 50's, signs of new development seemed in equal numbers to boarded up storefronts and still-uncleared sites of rubble.
The initial observations will be followed by extensive interviews with local store owners to identify economic anchors along each of the corridors. Yet such a study stirs a lot of curiosity, and impromptu interviews make their way into initial observations.
One entrepreneur, a large man whose neck was swaddled in long braids and a pair of hot pink construction earmuffs, offered some advice on the neighborhood. He had had just finished stocking his small business with construction equipment and was very close to opening his shop.
"It's true you'll find some anchor stores here." Just up the street was a mandarin orange two-story electronic supply store on the scale of a Circuit City. Evidently the other direction held a couple well-known and robust construction equipment stores that the entrepreneur is preparing to compete against. "But these stores aren't serving everyone you see on the street."
Route de Delmas is a large corridor for traffic going to and from downtown Port-au-Prince. The streets are packed with cars, trucks of all sizes, motorcycles, tap taps, buses, and aid vehicles. However, just because the vehicles are on the road doesn't necessarily mean they're contributing to local businesses.
"Prices are lower downtown," the entrepreneur explains. "There's no reason for people outside of Delmas to shop here."
Yet Delmas is so densely populated that businesses can support themselves, and new ones are springing up here and there, not a few of which supplying construction equipment.