Thursday, February 16, 2012

Urban Planning in Mexico

Here in Mexico urban planning is more of an afterthought. Sure, some good projects are being built but they are often completely privatized, with little or no community involvement in the planning process. Often such impressive projects fail to integrate themselves into the surrounding neighborhoods thus becoming a fortress that separates rather than connects with the areas around the project…….at least in Monterrey. Mexico City is a whole other animal.

Many times these projects are megaprojects with higher residential densities that would normally support public transit but are built to support only the use of an automobile. The end result is an awkward product that feels somewhat soulless. It seems as if the local government approves the project but makes very little in the way of demands as to how the project will impact and integrate into the community.

From all that I can see, a sort of honor system must exist in which it is expected that the developer will comply to all the rules…..though they seldom do. Either that or it is the result of corruption. From my experiences working on the border however I would have to say it is a combination of corruption and incompetence. By incompetence I mean that governments operate in a reactive not proactive mode and do not have the resources or the organizational infrastructure to effectively monitor the realization of the projects being constructed. I would also imagine that there is a breakdown of communication between governmental departments as individual governmental entities tries to jealously guard their information, something that I have had firs hand experience combating from all my years working on both sides of the border.

This of course is all anecdotal and opinion based. I hope to learn more as I further explore issues and broaden my contact with people working in and with governmental planning entities in Monterrey and beyond.


  1. After living in Monterrey long enough to accumulate substantial Infonavit points, I decided to go househunting. This, despite the fact that I couldn't imagine myself living in the city long-term given the lack of interesting urban neighborhoods. (Barrio Antiguo is as close as it gets and even then, it's far from ideal.) In any case, I first checked out a loft conversion (Framboyanes), in an industrial wasteland near the plaza de toros on Alfonso Reyes, central Monterrey. I use "industrial wasteland" in a positive context, as it actually felt like a real loft development, rather than what is generally marketed as "lofts" in San Pedro. However, upon inspection of the units, I saw that the units were cheaply built and really, the development was walled and isolated from shopping and other points of interest. Then, I checked out the model homes at Centrika, just a stone's throw away a bit further east. Despite the fact that the neighborhood is constructed on top of a toxic dump site, I still believed that the homes were as good as I'd find for my money. And the location was central enough that I'd be able to walk to the Centro. Of course, there was a security fence surrounding the entire development, but I realized that every middle-class housing development is surrounded by a fence. I decided to take the plunge, pay my 2,000 pesos and reserve a unit. I picked one right next to a gate in the security fence, a reasonable walk to the suburban-style Plaza Centrika. I asked the sales agent why the entire complex was fenced and she couldn't understand why I didn't view it in a positive light. I sighed and said, "At least my house will be next to a gate so that I can easily walk out of the complex to the shopping center." She informed me that the gate didn't allow for pedestrian access and that to get to Plaza Centrika, I'd have to drive a circuitous 2km route through the neighborhood to reach security gates which would allow me to leave. I canceled the contract. I was out 2,000 pesos, but at least I'm not currently living in what amounts to a nicely landscaped minimum-security prison.

  2. Wow! Not surprised.......that would be the mindset that I experience every day here. Monterrey seems to embrace some of the worst parts of the United States.