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Hopes Are High for Tallest Building in Latin America

Construction: Backers and local officials believe the 55-story tower will help revitalize downtown Mexico City.

July 17, 2001|CHRIS KRAUL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEXICO CITY — Latin America's tallest office building is under construction on this capital's main urban artery, a project that developers and city officials hope will bring some vibrancy back to a financial district from which many multinational corporations have fled in recent years.

The 55-story, $200-million project is being built on Paseo de Reforma across the street from historic Chapultepec Park and is scheduled for occupancy in January 2003.

The developer is a partnership of Reichmann International of Toronto, the largest office developer-owner in the world, and ICA of Mexico City, one of Latin America's largest construction companies. Reichmann is perhaps best known for having built Canary Wharf in London, the largest office complex ever built.

The 828,000-square-foot office tower will rise above Reforma, a broad, tree-lined monumental road built in the 19th century that links the city's historic center with Chapultepec Park and a castle that once housed Emperor Maximilian and several Mexican presidents.

Modeled after the Champs-Elysees, Reforma was once an elegant thoroughfare known for its concentration of corporate headquarters and government offices. But huge numbers of businesses have fled since a 1985 earthquake killed 10,000 and devastated much of the central district. Traffic and crime also have scared away businesses.

In recent years, most of Mexico's Class A, or prime, office space has been built in two outlying office nodes called Lomas Reforma and Santa Fe.

The developers hope tenants will be lured back to the central part of the city with features such as central air conditioning, large floor spaces and parking, all of which are hard to find in Mexico City office buildings, said Reichmann executive Gerald Ricker.

The city is doing its part by beefing up the police presence in the central district and offering new redevelopment incentives to property owners.

ICA-Reichmann is addressing tenants' fears of earthquakes with a design that features high-tech shock absorbers as big as cars on several floors to dampen vibrations created by quakes. They were designed by Taylor Devices Inc. of Buffalo, N.Y., the same company that built shock absorbers for Los Angeles City Hall.

The office project aims at rejuvenating the Reforma office district and turning the tide of tenants back downtown, said Geoffrey Alles, president of Alles Group Encor International, a commercial real estate brokerage in Mexico City. Downtown has "declined since the earthquake, but it's coming back," he said.

Once completed, the building, called Torre Mayor, or Highest Tower, will surpass the 44-story Petroleos Mexicanos building as Mexico City's tallest. It will rank as the 54th-tallest building in the world, Ricker said.

Rent will average $2.50 to $3.50 per square foot per month, Ricker said.

The ICA-Reichmann team also is attempting to redevelop six city blocks in Mexico City's central historic zone, but the project has been delayed for the better part of a decade because of legal issues surrounding ownership as well as Mexico's intermittent economic problems.

Mexico City has about 85 million square feet of office inventory, of which about 15% is Class A, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The market for Class A space in the Reforma district is considered extremely tight.

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