TBY talks to Venerando Lamelas Fernandez, President of BD Promotores Colombia, on developing spaces for the Colombian people and the rise of spending power among middle-class citizens.

Venerando Lamelas Fernandez

What were the core market factors that encouraged BD Promotores to invest in Colombia four years ago?

Four years ago, when the crisis hit Spain, we analyzed several potential markets where BD Promotores could grow, and Colombia offered the greatest growth opportunities. In fact, I believe Colombia is the best destination for foreign investors in Latin America.

How has the real estate sector evolved in Colombia since you entered the market?

Colombia was a “cold market," due to the economic crisis that affected the country in the late 1990s, as well as the security issues that everyone is aware of when thinking of Colombia. However, the sector has seen some important growth over the past four years, thanks to the development of the country and the potential that the main economic sectors offer.

How would you assess the environment for foreign investors in the Colombian real estate sector?

Colombia has high levels of legal security, and the market offers plenty of opportunities. There is an increasing middle class whose purchasing power is growing at a very fast pace, and its members are the main engine of our sector. Everyone knows about Colombia and its potential now; however, we have been here for four years and that offers us a better position in the market than newcomers. No foreign investors landing in Colombia should expect to make profitable business operations right away, because, as in our case, there is a process of understanding Colombia and its people while getting accustomed to the market and its trends. Basically, you have to understand that Colombia offers huge opportunities as long as you commit yourself to medium- to long-term strategies. BD Promotores' story has been based along these lines.

What are you expecting from BD Bacatá, the tallest building in Colombia?

We believe that it will be one of the tallest buildings in Latin America at 250 meters and 66 stories. The main challenge in this project has always been the design; we never aimed at developing the tallest building, but a key project. We are very proud of the entire project. We want the citizens of Bogotá, and Colombians in general, to feel the building is theirs, making it a landmark in the skyline of Bogotá. Also, the project aims at revitalizing the center of Bogotá, because it is an area that has been neglected over the years. We expect to open the project at the end of 2014.

What other projects has BD Promotores lined up for the near future?

Currently, we are developing another hotel, in Bogotá. It will be a smaller scale project than BD Bacatá with 100 rooms, and its name is Bacatá Express. We believe that it will be finished by July 2013. At the same time, we have other ongoing projects in other cities, such as Cartagena.

What has been your level of investment in Colombia since you first started operations in the country?

We have been handling some key projects over the last three years, and we have set up even more promising ones like BD Bacatá. Overall, the project investment has been over $100 million. We have to put these investments into context though, because we are not a large company and the decision to establish operations in Colombia looked risky back then. Today, everyone knows about Colombia and its development, but four years ago the environment was completely different. In addition, the stereotype of a lack of security in Colombia has damaged its image. The reality is far from that; anybody can tell you that Bogotá, for example, is not a dangerous city as many believe.

What are BD Promotores' plans outside of Colombia?

We currently have operations in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. At the moment, we do not have any short- to medium-term plans to launch operations in any other neighboring countries. BD Promotores is strongly focused on the growth and development of the company in Colombia.