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The construction site where adjacent homes fell into the excavation last year. The construction site where adjacent homes fell into the excavation last year.

In Monterrey, boom of runaway development

Developers look skyward, but often to the detriment of neighboring single-family homes

A real estate boom in the capital of Nuevo León has unleashed a proliferation of unsustainable development by unscrupulous developers, charges a local environmental group.

In at least one case, the effects of the runaway development had devastating consequences.

With land running out in the metropolitan area of Monterrey, real estate developers have increasingly turned to the construction of high-rise residential and commercial towers, especially in the wealthy municipality of San Pedro Garza García.

Real estate in the upscale area has enjoyed appreciation in value that is among the highest in the country.

But in many cases new high-rise developments have been approved next to single-family homes, diminishing their value, impacting negatively on residents’ quality of life and even putting people’s lives at risk. Such developments have provoked an exodus by residents who felt their quality of life had been lost.

Some parts of San Pedro have seen an influx of businesses, offices, bars and educational institutions in recent years that has led to increased traffic and insecurity, a lack of parking space and a deterioration of the quality of services in the area.

The municipality is also home to Mexico’s tallest building, the Torre Koi, a mixed-use skyscraper whose 67 stories and nine levels of parking soar 280 meters into the sky.

The head of Comité Ecológico Pro Bienestar (ecological committee for well-being) explained that the only thing that concerns most developers is making money and for years the natural environment has been collateral damage.

“Unfortunately, real estate speculators who base their operations on profitable development — not on sustainable development — are only going to apply the brakes when one of the rich residents of San Pedro is affected,” Guillermo Martínez Berlanga said, adding that it was only a matter of time before that happened.

“. . . For years nature has been challenged by building mansions in mountainous areas, obstructing ravines and constructing monumental buildings using outdated techniques or materials on land where the soil doesn’t allow for such a load,” he said.

One development which had scant regard for the safety of others was brought into tragic focus in November last year.

An elderly couple died when four houses adjacent to the construction of a 23-story building collapsed in the neighborhood of Antigua de Monterrey, located on the municipal boundary with San Pedro.

Excavation of an underground parking lot at the development was blamed for destabilizing the land and causing the subsequent collapse of homes. A retaining wall erected to prevent further damage also collapsed.

The project proposal by construction firm Legosa was initially rejected in January 2015 but a new proposal was later approved in September of the same year, a month before Monterrey Mayor Margarita Arellanes finished her term.

Two months after construction started, cracks started to appear in neighboring homes but authorities failed to adequately respond to residents’ complaints or take action that may have remedied the problem. A year later the disaster occurred.

Martínez said the tragedy should be seen as a new wake-up call to avoid further disasters caused by what he referred to as a “real estate cartel.”

He said that corrupt mayors and state authorities are complicit with developers because they approve new developments in areas that are not suitable for construction and despite opposition from existing residents.

Problems have shown up in other parts of the city, and in projects built by the same construction firm that was building the tower that caused the homes to collapse.

In at least one case, the company blatantly violated its building permit by using a different construction method for the foundations of a tower.

However, the lawyer for a woman whose home was consequently damaged and at risk of falling into a 30-meter pit excavated by the company said that the local government has failed to take any action against it.

“The [Legosa] businessmen seem to be protected by the municipal authorities because they don’t sanction them or stop their work,” José María Urrutia said.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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