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KC Hardin is an American and longtime resident of Panama who has consistently shown his dedication to his local community in Casco Viejo, including in projects involving the U.S. Embassy. Much of his work has focused on making Casco Viejo a safer, more diverse, and more inclusive community, with a particular focus on helping underserved youth.
When the Financial Times of London profiled KC Hardin recently, the article ended with a vignette of a former gang-leader asking Hardin for business advice in a Casco Viejo foundation he operates in a property provided by Hardin's real estate company. "It's funny," Hardin told the writer, "going to neighborhood meetings now where former gang leaders complain about how hard it is to find good help."
It has been a decade since he took a leave of absence from the law firm of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison to surf in Bocas del Toro, intending only a hiatus from doing mergers and acquisition work in New York and Tokyo. In Panama City, Casco Viejo put him in mind of South Beach, Miami, where he came of age during its in the early 1990s and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he lived before moving to Panama in 2002. The Casco's charm and similar potential lead him to meet his business partner, Ramon Ricardo Arias, who had been restoring buildings in the neighborhood since before it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1997. They bonded over shared philosophies of revitalizing while protecting both historical and human heritage, forming Conservatorio SA, a company which restores historic buildings into hotels, offices and both high-end and affordable residences. The unusual balancing of commerical, cultural and social interests was recognized with a Global Vision Award from Travel + Leisure Magazine in 2011.
Hardin, who graduated from film school at the University of Miami, comes from a family known in that city for philanthropic work, which maybe partly explains his enthusiastic support for civic and charitable organizations in Panama. He is actively involved with Fundacion Calicanto, which protects the historic district's human and historical heritage, and his company provides over 20,000 square feet of subsidized and free space to community NGOs in the Santa Familia Community Center and in the restored National Music Conservatory.