Reconversion Projects Can Spur Urban DevelopmentThu, 01/11/2018 - 11:34
Lack of space in Mexico means developers need to get creative to find the precious square meters required to develop their projects. Jesús Gordillo, Mexico City Director of architectural firm GVA, says that reconversion projects with public transport as their backbone offer opportunities for urban regeneration. “Reconversion means that prime real estate that may be a little deteriorated can be regenerated to create greater social impact,” he says.
To bring about social change, public transport should be a key factor as it directly impacts public spaces and civic culture. “Transport routes have a high social and economic penetration as they immediately revalue the land around them,” Gordillo says. For example, new Metrobús stations tend to revive the areas in which they are located. The surrounding streets start to gentrify and the neighborhoods become more walkable. In turn, new real estate opportunities open up.
The firm has 50 years of experience in the market. “We started as a local firm with offices in Guadalajara that saw enormous opportunities to open offices abroad,” Gordillo says. “We went from local to international with the challenge of adding value over all the other firms operating in big cities.”
GVA initially seized opportunities in the hospitality market to open offices in the Dominican Republic. “We started to delimit our company’s vision according to the needs of a foreign developer and the local tools available to carry out a project. This process helped us understand how to better guide the client in financing their projects in Latin America,” Gordillo says. GVA has since specialized in offering an integrated approach to projects that vary from residential to hospitality, always with the goal of generating a positive social impact.
Drawing on this experience, Gordillo says that a policy that prioritizes public transport would offer significant advantages over that which boosts car use, as has been the case in Mexico. He points to the construction of the Periférico’s second floor 10 years ago to address traffic needs. “Which areas benefited from having a road above them?” he asks. “Meanwhile, those streets located close to a MetroBús have seen real benefits.”
The reconversion of the social tissue through real estate projects and urban planning forces architects to think about society in terms of its different economic social classes. “This sensitivity allows them to find multiple penetration modes to develop public spaces; it is hard to have all classes converge in one project,” he says. He uses La Mexicana Park in Santa Fe, Mexico City, as a success case for architecture as a social experiment that achieved high community penetration.
The reconversion boom has also reached hospitality real estate. GVA itself has 12 ongoing hotel projects. “The real estate cycle is taking a second spin,” Gordillo says. “Existing properties are being revived and upgraded to better take advantage of them.”
According to the Director, it is also crucial to find the right balance between innovation and respect for community customs when redeveloping certain areas. He highlights GVA's collaboration on a transport terminal project in Poza Rica, Veracruz. Gordillo says the challenge is to incorporate novel and groundbreaking elements such as escalators, which are not traditionally seen in local bus stations. The firm also wants to gradually change local paradigms and make the terminal a lounge space that serves as a social area instead of just being a transit facility.
GVA is currently working with transport companies to develop new transport terminals that integrate real estate components in these areas. Gordillo explains that non-traditional locations can host the most promising real estate opportunities. “These developments are usually located in deteriorated urban areas with some transport connectivity but with interesting opportunities for rehabilitation,” he adds. GVA is also exploring the opportunities for health facilities within mixed-use developments, such as the Ciudad Salud project in Queretaro. “These projects have a high impact on the quality of public space use,” he says.