The city of Monterrey in Nuevo León has begun an urban regeneration scheme to rejuvenate one of its oldest sections, Barrio Antiguo (see map below).
Barrio Antiguo is the area to the east of the Macroplaza. It is bounded to the south and east by Avenida Constitución, to the west by Calle Doctor Coss and to the north by Calle Padre Mier.
Earlier this year, city authorities, with assistance from the Nuevo León state government, published an online Catalog of Buildings of Historic and Artistic Importance in Barro Antiguo, which will form a basis for future planning decisions about any changes of land use in the area. [To view the entire catalog, scroll down in the center frame on that page.]
The Catalog includes a series of historic maps, from 1765, 1791, 1846, 1865, 1922, 1933 and 1947 respectively, as well as modern maps showing the location of all individual properties in Barrio Antiguo, color-coded to show their importance in terms of conservation and restoration efforts.
The first phase of the urban regeneration scheme (called “Nuevo Barrio Antiguo”) includes a “paint job” in which all the buildings in the Barrio’s 16 blocks (manzanas) will be repainted in pastel colors. Owners can choose from a palette of pastel colors that has been predetermined as being in keeping with the historic and architectural characteristics of the area. Click here for the approved colors, complete with color swatches, and the matching paint names for different manufacturers.
During the first phase, new street signs will be installed, as well as tiles highlighting associations to famous people who lived or worked in the Barrio Antiguo. A second phase will restore sidewalks, add new street lighting, and involve public consultation about creating cultural and recreational space. Some streets would also be pedestrianized. Planners would seek to ensure that a wide mix of land uses is retained in the area, including residential, and that the area becomes attractive to visitors and tourists. The accessibility of Barrio Antiguo would be boosted if (or when) Line 3 of the city’s Metro system is built, since its proposed route would start near Barrio Antiguo and run 7.5 kilometers to the Metropolitan Hospital.
The Catalog identifies 193 buildings from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries as being worth preserving, and the catalog entries for individual buildings provide a cross-reference to other listings of historic buildings such as those previously compiled by the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) and state-level agencies. The oldest building in Barrio Antiguo apparently dates back to 1765, while La Casa del Campesino incorporates parts of an even earlier building (from 1728). The listed buildings cover a range of architectural styles ranging from what is described as “vernacular north-eastern architecture” to neoclassic and art deco.
As Monterrey has grown, the condition of Barrio Antiguo’s building stock has deteriorated significantly. During the 1990s and 2000s, many buildings were turned into twilight zone businesses such as cafes, bars and nightclubs. La Casa del Campesino has been repeatedly re-purposed over the years, serving at different times as a government building, charity, hospital, and even a short-term emergency shelter following severe floods in 1909.
Not everyone is happy about the regeneration plans. Critics are vocal about the potential interruption to commerce and small businesses, and fear that it will attract land speculators.
In addition, this is not the first time that plans have been hatched to regenerate Barrio Antiguo. Grandiose plans have been announced on several previous occasions but have never come to fruition.
Housing policy in Monterrey
This 2008 paper by Dr. Peter Ward provides an excellent introduction to housing policy in Monterrey Metropolitan Area:
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