Reuse of Disused Buildings

By Jorge Chávez
Jan. 30, 2019

Puerto Vallarta is a relatively young city that has experienced significant urban growth in recent decades, generated by the expansion of the tourism industry in the region and the economic boom that has occurred as a result. Naturally, the real estate sector has been a key element in this development, increasing the housing supply in the face of demographic growth. According to the Observatorio Integral Turístico de Puerto Vallarta y Bahía de Banderas (recovering data from INEGI), Puerto Vallarta went from having a population of 35,911 in the ‘70s to having 275,640 inhabitants in 2015. On the other hand, it notes that, in the 2010 census, Puerto Vallarta and Bahía de Banderas together had a population of 379,886. Naturally, urban sprawl has increased in both municipalities.

With this acceleration phenomenon, in all emerging cities, the disuse of real estate occurs primarily in the central or original areas. In many cases, existing structures are demolished to create new buildings that have different uses or that adapt to the new needs of the market. However, today, increased awareness of the consumption of natural resources and environmental impact has led to new models of sustainable building that can be implemented precisely when there is an earlier structure, and thus reduce the spread of urban areas. 

The reuse of disused buildings consists of recycling old buildings to endow them with a new life, by either maintaining or modifying their previous use. Generally, the criteria that come into play in determining whether a building is a candidate for this type of treatment are the physical condition in which it is found, economic factors, conditions of the surrounding environment, as well as its historical or social value.

Some examples of this trend exist in Puerto Vallarta. In the 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, condo CR1275 (1275 Costa Rica street) is one of the most recent examples of architectural recycling. The work was carried out by the Laboratorio de Arquitectura Mexicana (LAM), so Vallarta Real Estate Guide approached Alberto and Andrés Reyes, two of the firm’s partners, to learn about the details of the project.

Laboratorio de Arquitectura Mexicana (LAM), Reuse of Disused Buildings, Vallarta Real Estate Guide

Alberto, an architect, explained that, although the site had previously housed apartments, his team worked on a design that would optimize the spaces and take advantage of natural views. Through a structural analysis, the state of the building was evaluated. “At some points, we had to reinforce it with steel because we intended to expand certain areas, such as balconies. The decision to recover the building was a matter of construction efficiency and a lower environmental impact.”

For his part, Andrés highlighted the neighborhood’s potential to embrace this type of real estate development. “The 5 de Diciembre neighborhood is very interesting because there have been several urban improvement initiatives. In the past, it was configured as one of the city’s main commercial areas, so the entire supply area is nearby. However, as in many of Puerto Vallarta’s traditional communities, the population has been aging and moving to other places. However, many homes are currently in the process of being revitalized. Those that were single-family homes are now being redefined as vertical multi-family dwellings. I think that in the next few years it will be a very competitive area.”

Puerto Vallarta’s El Centro and Romantic Zone neighborhoods are other areas that could embrace the recovery of real estate, as they have high demand for real estate and relatively old buildings. Another example of architectural reuse is found on Amapas street, one block from Los Muertos beach. This is the boutique hotel Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel, which is built on what used to be a place for family getaways. Over the years it fell into disuse, until architect Óscar Morán Guillén (grandson of the original owners) decided to restore it and turn it into a commercial vacation property. The restoration involved the rehabilitation of walls, the reuse of construction materials and the recovery of furniture. Currently, it is a building that maintains a traditional image with contemporary elements.

Additionally, Morán developed a second project on a property located in El Centro (293 Iturbide street), conserving original walls and foundations. Today, it is a condominium that features materials typical of serrana (highlands) architecture.

Although each project requires specific evaluation, this construction model can mean a reduction in costs, as it reduces transportation of materials and energy consumption in the production process.