When Othón Pérez, Hill International’s country manager for Mexico, stood up to address a recently-concluded industry gathering at Monterrey, it was amply clear that he was targeting a much wider audience than just those present at the venue. The 6th Annual Real Estate Business Summit – billed as one of the leading conferences in the real estate and civil construction sector in Latin America – was inaugurated at the Governor of the State of Nuevo Leon, whose capital is the prosperous city on Monterrey. As the third-largest city in Mexico, Monterrey is a commercial center in the north of the country and is the base for many significant international corporations such as Siemens, Accenture, Ternium, Sony, Whirlpool, Samsung, Toyota, Babcock and Wilcox, Ericsson, Nokia, Dell and General Electric, to name a few. The city is also home to an array of Mexican companies, including Grupo Avante, Lanix Electronics, Oresca, CEMEX, Vitro, OXXO, Dina SA and Grupo ALFA. “This event is organized every year and convenes the most important companies and experts in the real estate business of Mexico,” said Othón. To set the tone of the conference and add significance to the event, there was a welcome reception and cocktail at the KOI Tower, which is the tallest building in Latin America. “At the event, eight roundtables were held to discuss various issues related to urban development and real estate business, such as: Financing; Industrial Markets; Mixed-use Developments; and Urban Mobility and Sustainability, among others,” Othón added. Besides being a sponsor, Hill also participated at the conference by setting up a stand that gave glimpses of the company’s project management and construction management skills and capabilities.
For Othón as a panel speaker in the round-table discussion where he spoke on “Innovation in High-Rise Buildings,” there was no dearth of experiences and success stories that he could draw from with respect to Hill International. “The topics mentioned were about our experience in high-rise buildings that include the Al Bidda Tower in Qatar, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (which until now is the tallest building in the world), Caja Madrid / Repsol in Spain and several more,” he said. Besides referring to Hill’s role in these iconic high rises globally, Othón also pointed the important issue of operation of these mega structures. “The challenges involved in emergency, safety, water supply and all services,” he said. It was not Othón alone, but fellow panelists agreed on the complex and costly problems that can lead to a building to gain or lose value. “We well-constructed building from the beginning, with all the documentation and management of vendor and supplier contracts, can maintain a master conservation program which is extremely critical,” he said, referring to cases about ‘a vicious circle’ where a low budget generates a mediocre maintenance that leads to tenants vacating the building. Consequently, the high-rise administration has fewer resources and the building goes in decay. Also discussed at the event was whether mixed-use projects are a fashion or came to stay. “All panelists agreed that mixed uses are the present and the future of the global building industry as they diversify risks and also bring in multiple sources of revenue for investments,” Othón said, adding despite “mixed-use” being a rather general term, yet investors who best understand the specific needs of spot markets are the ones who will have more financially successful properties. Citing an example, he said a mixed development could imply a hospital, hotel and shopping center or an office-area build that houses common areas and recreational businesses such as theatres and restaurants. “Each city and each district has its own behavior and the challenge is to understand what behavior has that niche market,” Othón said.
Othón’s presenting the case of Hill International’s capabilities came in the backdrop of project management and construction management services the company has also provided for two landmark facilities in Mexico. The first is the Centro Operativo project and the second is the Julian Adame tower. The Centro Operativo project was awarded by Spain-based BBVA, which is a multinational group providing financial services in over 31 countries and to 50 million customers throughout the world. Hill’s contract covered providing its construction management services for the Centro Operativo project, which will host the back office operations of BBVA Bancomer. The facility is a 38-story tower featuring 16 levels of parking (9 levels underground) and 22 floors of office space with a total built-up area of nearly 153,000 square meters (1.65 million square feet). The project has received LEED Silver certification. The Julian Adame contract is a planned development that entailed the construction of six towers for primarily residential purposes. The project also included underground parking, common areas and related facilities. Each tower has 20 stories, resulting in a construction of 80,000 square meters and 35,000 square meters of underground parking space. There will also be 375 apartments and a 6,000 square-meter space for amenities. Starting off in 2004 in Mexico with a handful of professionals, Hill International has today grown significantly in that country, with the award and completion of some strategic marine terminal and port developments. With the expectation of a growth in Mexico’s economy and anticipated investments in the real estate, telecommunications, infrastructure and real estate sectors, Hill is well-positioned to pursue more contracts and grow its market share. “We have proven expertise in project monitoring and PPP [public, private partnerships] sectors and have knowledge of how to deal with financial institutions and structure deals. This can be put to use too,” Othón concluded.