ON THE UP AND UP

Mexico 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | FOCUS

Recent economic growth in Mexico has both the national economy and the capital's skyscrapers reaching new heights as more people flock to the city.

Despite being one of the largest cities in the world and the largest in Latin America, Mexico City has never been famous for its skyscrapers in the same way that New York, Dubai, or Hong Kong has. For most of its recent history, companies looking for AAA+ corporate office preferred to move west into newer zones bordering Mexico State where they had more space to build 'campus-style' offices. However, as the population swells and traffic increases, many major companies have returned to the city center, prompting a boom in vertical construction in areas like Paseo de la Reforma, Insurgentes, and Santa Fe.

Torre Latinoamericana, built in 1956 near the city's historic center, was Mexico's first skyscraper. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest building in Latin America and remained Mexico's tallest building until 1972, when it was surpassed by Hotel de México, which was later topped by Torre de Pemex in 1982. The earthquake of 1985 put a halt to further skyscraper construction until the turn of the millennium. Since then, new skyscraper projects have become taller and more frequent. In 2015, Torre BBVA Bancomer became the tallest building in Mexico, only to have its title stolen by Torre Reforma a year later, which is currently the tallest building in the city measuring 246m. Over the next three years, another seven skyscrapers are in the works, the tallest of which, Puerta Reforma, will measure 335m and be completed in 2020.

TBY spoke with Antonio Caliz, Country Manager of international architecture firm Gensler, about the growing popularity of vertical construction in Mexico City. Caliz told TBY, “On Reforma and Insurgentes streets in Mexico City, we are starting to see buildings over 50 stories, which is unprecedented. There are opportunities and challenges to this. In a city of 20 million people, the value of land has grown exponentially, especially in the financial districts, and developers always seek a great balance between investments and returns.”
Mexico's skyscraper growth has been part of a more general trend towards vertical development in all segments in the city, not just iconic projects in the city's business districts. As Alfredo Elías Ayub, Director General of Promociones Metrópolis, told TBY, two main trends have been behind the growth of vertical construction: the increasing price of land and the increasing role of millennials in the real estate sector, who have different lifestyle preferences than previous generations. “For large cities, land has started to become scarcer and the price of land to build a house has increased; projects have to be vertical. Another key trend is that people want to be much closer to their jobs. They are willing to sacrifice two things: the need for a house and size,” Ayub told TBY.

As José Shalot of Quiero Casa also explained to TBY, the trend toward vertical development in more central areas of the city can also have social and environmental benefits. According to Shalot, the focus on horizontal sprawl in the past has meant that “[low-income] families end up living in commuter towns where the quality of life and public services such as schools are below average. Everything becomes more expensive for the government and families, and the families remain poor. We need to bring the families closer to where they work, as this is also better for the environment: we have done studies with researchers and found that the families living in the apartments we build emit half the levels of CO2 compared to those in the outskirts of the cities.”

Another factor has been increased economic stability, which allows for the kind of long-term planning that is necessary to build bigger real estate projects. It seems the measure of Mexico City's economic well-being is best captured in meters or, more specifically, in the heights of its skyscrapers.