Although they previously avoided Latin America when they expanded, many U.S. architecture firms are now headed south of the border, hoping that projects in the burgeoning region will carry them through the recession.
BusinessWeek: Even as financial troubles mount around the world, and increasingly put some Latin nations at risk, there’s a sense that much of the region, which has been buffeted by severe recessions before, can weather the current crisis. At least that’s what some architects believe…
Now cropping up there are stores selling luxury foreign goods, the kinds of watches and handbags purchased by big spenders on Miami shopping trips. More significantly, a growing middle-class in Ecuador, as well as in Peru and Colombia, is spurring the construction of discount stores, adds Forneris, who recently completed a 12-story mixed-use project in downtown Guayaquil. Among its tenants will be a new outpost of Juan Eljuri, an Ecuadorian-type Wal-Mart that sells clothes, housewares, and electronics. The building will house both the 45,000-square-foot store and the company’s corporate offices, in addition to other tenants.
While the global credit freeze could theoretically curtail shopping habits, the overall effects “won’t be as severe here,” Forneris predicts. “Money has been hard to come by for years, so I don’t know how much more credit can shrink for them.”…
Don’t be so sure…
Another driver of Latin America’s building boom is tourism. Despite a global drop in travel due to the economic downturn, Bryan Algeo, AIA, principal of WATG, an Irvine, California-based firm, says the Latin American tourism industry shouldn’t be as badly affected as other parts of the world because the region’s still relatively affordable compared with other destinations.
Plus, with demand for hotel rooms there far outstripping supply—there are just 500 luxury hotel rooms in all of Costa Rica, he says—developer interest should remain high. That’s just one of the reasons his firm, which has designed hotels in 150 countries since its founding in 1946, is seeking more commissions in Latin America. “We go where the action is, and we see activity moving south,” Algeo says.
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