The New Mini-Panama City: The Rise of the Panamanian Upper Middle Class

What was once  a 450HEC (1,110 acres) tract of farmland to the West of Panama City is now developing into a full fledged second city, with gourmet eateries such as Paladar, grocery stores like Riba Smith (a specialty grocer) and Pricemart, along with Panama City retail heavyweights Panafoto and Arrocha.

Despite rising food and housing costs, Panamanians continue to enjoy an unprecedented level of disposable income and new-found purchasing power. This has directly translated into a booming demand for new shopping centers, new car sales, and higher priced housing options. As you might imagine, savvy developers are taking note.

Businesses like these could never have been supported 10 years ago in “Panama Oeste.” But now prices are rising faster in the middle to upper income communities between Chorrera and Araijan than in downtown areas like Punta Pacifica and Balboa Avenue.

And it’s not just Panamanians who are purchasing in the new gated communities to the West, it’s Venezuelans, Colombians, and North Americans too, who prefer to live on the outskirts of the city and are prepared for what can be, during the morning and evening rush hours, a very long and slow commute (soon to be alleviated by Line 3 of the Metro, a contract which has already partially been awarded to Japan).

And once Metro Line 3 tracks go in, look for development to push even further West into mountain communities and small towns.  Because what is now a 1.5 hour morning drive will eventually take less than 25 minutes.

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