INSIDE AND OUT

Colombia 2014 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | B2B: ARCHITECTURE

The Colombian architectural environment, externally and internally, is a strong value proposition, with innovative designs emerging in a market still offering growth.

Carlos Alberto Serna Londoño
CARLOS ALBERTO SERNA LONDOÑO
General Manager
Espacios Urbanos
Andrés Velasco
ANDRÉS VELASCO
General Manager
AEI (Arquitectura e Interiores)

How would you characterize the demand for corporate projects in Colombia in the interior design sector?

ANDRÉS VELASCO For the past three-to-five years, the demand for new corporate space has grown significantly as a result of two factors; first, the arrival to the country of new corporations, and second, especially during the past year-and-a-half, the fact that established corporations, either foreign or local, are changing the way they work. These organizations are either moving to a new space or having the existing space remodeled in pursuit of higher levels of productivity and innovation. Remodeling is in fact experiencing its own momentum as the availability of corporate space in Bogotá is limited and the cost of property high.

What is your opinion about the new trend of companies developing “thinking rooms" and “recreational rooms?"

AV It is a new way of working that includes pillars of collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork. They represent a motor and an incentive for innovation, creativity, and, of course, more productivity. It is a new way of doing business.

And what potential does the interior design sector have in Colombia?

AV It has great potential, with much growing space remaining for the innovative practitioner. There will also be more competition, mostly from beyond Colombia. There are many industries in Colombia that still need to catch up with developments in other parts of the world. A good 40% of our projects in the past four years have been concentrated in the four industries of energy, oil, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods. However, if you think of the potential for this kind of innovation in sectors like business processing and outsourcing, consultancy, marketing agencies, or the financial sector, the potential is enormous. This is also true for government entities.

What are your company's most significant developments of late?

CARLOS ALBERTO SERNA LONDOÑO We have been developers for 24 years, which means that we are deeply engaged in the conceptualization and structuring of projects, as well as their management, and sale. We do not undertake architectural design or construction, but rather hire architects, contractors, and builders. We have undertaken a wide diversity of projects in the past that range from hotels, office buildings, and housing developments, to residential clubs with golf courses, warehouses, shopping centers of all kinds, and medical centers, among others. We are particularly proud of having created the Hotel Santa Clara in Cartagena. When we purchased it back in 1990 it was a ruin; in fact, it was built back in 1621, making it almost 400 years old. We have since transformed the old convent into a beautiful, six-star establishment.

Where do you identify the best property investments in Colombia?

CASL I would say that the best opportunities are located on the Caribbean coast, and that in the future potential lies in Buenaventura on the Pacific coast, the port of which handles over 60% of Colombia's international trade. New roads and highways to Buenaventura are now being laid, and I believe it will enjoy a very bright future, especially thanks to the recently signed free trade agreements (FTAs). Subsequent development should be concentrated in Santa Marta, Cartagena, and Barranquilla. Around 80% of our projects are located in that area; those sell faster and local authorities seem to better assist entrepreneurs to complete their deals. On the coast, I see opportunities for logistics projects and warehouses. I also perceive a need for office space in Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta. There is opportunity in the residential segment for all buyers, from lower to upper segment, in all three cities. There is still some room for growth in commercial, especially mixed-used projects, and also for second homes, especially for foreign nationals.