MIXING PUBLIC-PRIVATE SPHERES

Mexico 2018 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Vicente Naves Ramos, CEO of Grupo Frel, on the rise of mixed-use developments, economic impacts of earthquakes, and Espacio Latino.

Vicente Naves Ramos
BIOGRAPHY
Vicente Naves Ramos has over 25 years of experience in real estate. Before his current position, he was the CEO of Conmex (2012 – 2014) and Deputy General Director of Consorcio ARA (2006-2011). Naves Ramos holds a degree in civil engineering from Universidad La Salle and an MBA from Panamericana University’s IPADE Business School.

Which segment of the market will you prioritize in the years to come?

We are still considering diversifying, but we will focus on residential vertical urban developments, hotels, and commercial projects, namely retail spaces, offices, and mixed-use projects. We do not plan to be involved in industrial projects in the short or medium term.

What is different about the way Grupo Frel is developing malls today compared to how they were built 20 years ago?

Most of the projects that we have in the pipeline are office, residential, and mixed-use and not just malls. There has been a change in the way we design malls and customers seek other experiences and new things to do in a mall other than going there to buy something. Related to that, the design is changing to generate different experiences and new things for customers. For instance, in two of our malls in the Fibra, we created what we call Espacio Latino, a concept where we have a mix of different Latin American stores with artists, designers, and producers showing their different offerings including art, clothing, or fashion, all related to Latin American experiences. This will be combined with culinary experiences in a food hall featuring the different Latin American offerings. This will also be combined with different experiences such as tequila and mezcal tasting, mariachi music, or tango from Argentina. It will be a great offering and experience not only for foreigners visiting Mexican cities but also for locals. We want to launch the concept strongly and then replicate in other parts of the country to contribute to Mexico's world-class tourist attractions.

Is there a growing appetite in Mexico for mixed-use developments?

Mixed-use projects, especially in urban areas, are appealing for people because it is convenient to have different offerings close to their homes. In dense cities such as Mexico City, it is convenient for people to be able to walk to obtain the goods and services they need on a daily basis. Grupo Frel has three projects in the area known as Uptown Polanco, a nice district already being developed with residential apartments, offices, shopping malls, restaurants, theaters, and other cultural aspects. We will create something unique for the country: public areas on private property. We are creating, between the different projects, a 1km-long pedestrian pathway that will have retail spaces along the corridor and plazas for restaurants, cafes, and so on, making it a vibrant and dynamic area of the city.

Will the earthquake affect the real estate market in Mexico?

There are both positive and negative impacts. With some of these natural disasters, the economic outcome in the long term is positive because they incentivize investment and tend to make things move. Here in the city, some of the areas affected by the earthquake will suffer somewhat, though it will create opportunities in other areas that will spur residential and office construction.

What do you expect in 2018?

We are positive about the growth opportunities. The banks' indicators are a great predictor of the economy in general and bank results in Mexico are positive. They are growing heavily in terms of commercial loans for cars, personal loans, and mortgages. We are also positive because of the demographic bonus, which is a window of opportunity for every country at a certain stage and this is the case for Mexico, where the active economic population is larger than the non-economic population. We will have this situation at least until 2030.