Corredor Cultural Chapultepec

Critics say the Corredor Cultural Chapultepec is not the kind of public space the city desperately needs.

It’s a fact that Mexico City, with nearly 9 million residents and high levels of poverty, suffers from a lack of public space. Now officials are planning the city’s very own “linear park,” evoking New York City’s highly successful High Line. But critics say it’s misguided.

On its face, the ”Corredor Cultural Chapultepec” (CCC) sounds great, and the renderings look even better. FR-EE, the architecture firm leading the project, proposes an 0.8-mile, multi-level urban park running alongside Avenida Chapultepec, a busy thoroughfare in the Roma neighborhood.

An estimated 75,000 cars tear through the Avenida’s 10 lanes daily. Crossing those lanes as a pedestrian can be hairy, and sidewalks are narrow to begin with. The CCC will remove some of the lanes and replace them with green space on which to walk and bike, and water features that play off the ancient aqueduct near the street. Plus, retail stores.

"We have sacrificed public space for cars," Fernando Romero, general director and architect at FR-EE, told Curbed. "[A]nd the Avenida Chapultepec is organized in a chaotic manner. The avenue is 80 percent cars, and we want to flip that to create a cultural center and platform for transportation."

But critics say such rhetoric is disingenuous. David Ortega is a former employee of the Mexico City Ministry of Urban Development and a planning scholar at the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterey, where he focuses on the distribution of public space. Relative to other neighborhoods in the city, the Roma is well-served when it comes to transit, retail, and namely, green space, says Ortega. The Avenida Chapultepec stretches from a busy intersection near the well-developed center city to Chapultepec Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world.

“State interventions in public spaces in Mexico City.”
(International Journal of Civil, Environmental, Structural,
Construction and Architectural Engineering
)

Ortega tells CityLab that the Avenida Chapultepec needed attention of some kind, but not this: “They just needed to fix the street and the crosswalks. In terms of priorities for constructing something like this, there are so many other places that need urgent intervention.”

Ortega says the city talks about the need for public space and mobility, yet distributes projects unevenly, mostly in parts that are already well-developed. He’s not the first to point this out. A 2015 paper on public space in Mexico City includes a map of recent government-led projects, both revitalizations of existing spaces and new areas like gathering spaces underneath bridges. The map shows a concentration of projects in the center boroughs of the city. The paper’s author writes:

[I]t would be reasonable to believe that the vast majority of projects concerning public space are concentrated towards the center north because it is where growth began and it would be likely to have more inhabitants there. However, the most densely populated boroughs are located to the east… where the activation of projects is very scarce.

For example, the Iztapalapa borough is the most populous in the city, with some 1,815,786 residents. It’s poor, crowded, and struggles with infrastructure deficiencies. But there have only been two projects there since 2000, according to the paper.

Ortega also points out that the CCC project’s development process has been questionable. Instead of first identifying the need for a project, holding public hearings, finding investors, and conducting a proper competition for the design, Ortega says that the city went backwards: Behind closed doors, “They found the investor, and let the investor decide what to do with the site,” he says.

Which highlights another question: Will the CCC be truly “public”? Many critics worry that it’ll turn out to be more like a mall. Protests have broken out over this point (#NoShopultepec is one popular Twitter hashtag). Others, including one of Mexico City’s congressional representatives, say that the project will raise property values in nearby neighborhoods, to the extent that longtime residents will be displaced.  

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera has defended the project, affirming that it won’t be dominated by retail, and that the city’s approach to finding private investment first was smart business. “Otherwise the problem would be, who would want to invest without knowing they would recover some of their money?” he told El Universal (link in Spanish; this is a rough English translation). An official website goes to great lengths to characterize the project’s “transparency.”

Will the project actually get built? Ortega’s impression is that it will. At the very least, he says, “People are starting to find out what the project is about, and join the discussion. That’s exciting to see as an urbanist.”

(Corredor Cultural Chapultepec)
(Corredor Cultural Chapultepec)
(Corredor Cultural Chapultepec)
(Corredor Cultural Chapultepec)
(Corredor Cultural Chapultepec)
(Corredor Cultural Chapultepec)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Traffic-free Times Square in New York City
    Maps

    Mapping How Cities Are Reclaiming Street Space

    To help get essential workers around, cities are revising traffic patterns, suspending public transit fares, and making more room for bikes and pedestrians.

  2. Maps

    Readers: Share Your Hand-Made Maps of Life Under Quarantine

    As coronavirus transforms our private and public spaces, how would you map what your neighborhood and community look like now?

  3. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  4. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  5. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

×