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How Antara Polanco Revived a Corner of Mexico City..

How Antara Polanco Revived a Corner of Mexico City
By Maria Bird Pico

Skeptics predicted that Antara Polanco would become a white elephant, albeit a beautiful one. Instead, not only has this architecturally precocious mixed-use center grown over the past four years into a vibrant shopping and office complex, it has spurred other ambitious projects in its Mexico City neighborhood.

The $250 million center sits on the site of a former General Motors plant in the Nuevo Polanco neighborhood, on the city’s west end. The word antara is Sanskrit for “from the heart.” The center contains about 600,000 square feet of gross leasable area, distributed along two parallel, S-shaped buildings separated by a wide pedestrian walkway.
Mexican architect Javier Sordo Madaleno, one of the partners of project owner Grupo Integral de Desarrollo Inmobiliario, made sure to leave no traces of the site’s former industrial use. Sordo, the design force behind such emblematic Mexican retail projects as the Andares mixed-use center, in Guadalajara, and the eye-catching El Palacio de Hierro department stores, says he is particularly proud of Antara. “I always believed there was room for a luxurious center in the area that could attract new important retailers to Mexico,” said Sordo. “The challenge was to attain a pleasant space that integrated itself into Polanco to become the center of the community.”

This open-air center has changed notions about retail development in Mexico City, says Sordo. Before Antara, all the city’s malls were enclosed. “Antara is a place where it is nice to stroll and spend the day — that is a major contribution to the urban setting.”

The El Palacio de Hierro department store chain opened its first home-goods store, called Palacio Casa, at the center. Included in the tenant lineup are Burberry London, Coach, Hugo Boss, Zara Home and some of Mexico’s top restaurants. Owing to the site’s industrial past, a few tenants at first required some persuading to sign on, says Sordo. He traveled to Europe to nudge Carolina Herrera and Spanish designer Purificación García, both of whom eventually agreed to open shops at the mall, which is today fully leased. Sales at Antara have risen 20 percent over the past two years, executives say, despite the global economy.

Antara has blazed a trail for other high-profile developments, including Plaza Carso, a $1.4 billion mixed-use project developed by Mexico’s Carlos Slim, reportedly the world’s richest man. One of Plaza Carso’s main components is the Soumaya Museum, designed by Fernando Romero, who came up with an irregularly shaped building with an aluminum-mesh facade of 16,000 hexagons.

Now its developers are planning a 65,000-square-foot expansion scheduled to open in the first half of this year, and they are talking to Louis Vuitton about anchoring it, according to published reports. A 30-room boutique hotel is to be built on the site.

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