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Chile Commits to Preserving Ancient Churches

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Chile will expand the protection of 16 churches in the southern archipelago of Chiloé Island to ensure that urban development does not encroach on the structures which together constitute a United Nations-certified World Heritage site.

Renewed concern about the viability of these churches is the result of the construction of the Paseo Chiloé Mall, a massive six-story shopping center in Castro, Chiloé’s capital that overshadows the Church of San Francisco, a 16th-century structure.

A 2013 report by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said the mall has a “negative impact” on the church. If by 2015 the situation is not improved, the UNESCO said it would consider adding the San Francisco church to the list of Endangered World Heritage Sites.

The mall project has encountered several controversies after irregularities were detected and dozens of lawsuits forced the developers to reduce the number of floor levels.

A survey showed, however, that 94 percent of the local population supported the mall project.

As the re-zoning will not be retroactive, Castro’s mall is there to stay.

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