Plans to sell a large military site in Mexico City have been met with opposition from local residents who argue that its development will place further pressure on already stretched infrastructure.
The federal government is preparing to sell a 125-hectare parcel of land located between the Santa Fe business district and the affluent Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood, and residential and commercial development of the site would likely follow.
Among residents’ main concerns are the impact that development will have on the surrounding area’s clogged roads and strained water and sanitation services.
The president of the Santa Fe Residents’ Association, Itziar de Luisa, explained to the newspaper Reforma that people who live in the business district already face heavy traffic congestion on a daily basis. There is only one main road to access and exit the area.
The still incomplete Mexico City-Toluca intercity passenger train will not be a viable transportation alternative because there will be only two stops in the capital, another Santa Fe resident said.
Manuel Ontiveros added that the development will affect water supply in an area where water shortages are common.
A residents’ representative from the nearby Lomas Altas neighborhood shares the same concerns about traffic. Xavier Pérez Cano explained that key thoroughfares in the area, including avenues Vasco de Quiroga, Constituyentes and Paseo de la Reforma, are already heavily congested.
He argued that a change to the site’s land use that allows commercial development is unfeasible.
“A flat tire . . . causes a three-kilometer traffic jam; what’s going to happen with another shopping center inside the military site?” Pérez asked.
He also raised questions about the timing of the planned sale.
“. . . It’s highly suspicious that at the end of the six-year [presidential] term, a real estate transaction of a military property is taking place . . .” Pérez said.
“We have to see the criteria they used to make the appraisal to sell it,” he added.
The government first announced the possible sale of the Secretariat of Defense (Sedena) land in a document published in its official gazette in January, stating that the land is no longer required by the military.
The base price will be set by Mexico’s federal Appraisal Institute after consultation with the Mexico City Urban Development and Housing Secretariat (Seduvi).
Real estate experts believe that the property, which is largely made up of green space, could fetch as much as US $1 billion although its value is dependent on the kind of construction that authorities allow.
But Tomás Orozco from real estate consultancy firm Ceduvi said that the property could be sold at a lower price without specific land-use permissions and that it would be up to the purchaser to make the relevant development applications.
However, because land use is subject to examination by Mexico City authorities, another real estate consultant said that the process could take years.
“. . . with the new [Mexico City] constitution, land-use changes have to be approved by the mayor’s office, the [Legislative] Assembly [and] the city planning institute,” Softec director Gene Towle explained.
“We know that generally it’s a complicated process, because you have to lobby the Assembly. You might be lucky and it could pass very quickly or it could be a process of months, years or decades,” he added.
Both Orozco and Towle agreed that the most viable way to sell the site would either be through a competitive tendering process or at an auction.
If a US $1-billion sale materializes, it would be the most lucrative land sale in Mexico ever, with proceeds going to the federal treasury.