In our walks, we have also seen—in well-worn, even abandoned buildings on one hand, and repurposed and restored ones on the other—how these once-imagined neighborhoods have experienced and now reflect the realities of a century of time, the impacts of economic ups and downs, with the resulting fluctuations in the income levels of their residents over the last century.
They share in common having a significant number of late 19th and early 20th century buildings in distinctive Euopean styles that give one the sense of being in some Continental city, but with tropical vegetation and plenty of sun. Thus, each colonia has the potential for, and manifests efforts to be restored, integrating its historic batiburrillo, hodgepodge, into a vital, architecturally rich, contemporary neighborhood. However, they evidence different degrees of success in this process of rebirth and integration.
Seeking Renewed Life and Identity
Santa Maria la Ribera, the most northerly of the group, appears to be struggling with the greatest difficulty to restore the faded beauties of its Porfirian beginnings while integrating them with post-World War II Functionalist buildings and adding the modern buildings of urban renewal.
|Partially rehabilitated Neoclassic building in Santa Maria la Ribera|
|Modern Apartments Built Behind California Colonial in Cuauhtémoc|
|Restaurant Occupies Neocolonial mansion in Benito Juárez|
|Contemporay Glass Pavilion atop Neo-classic Base|
in Roma Norte
"Location, Location, Location"
Two factors basic to all real estate value seem to contribute to the varying levels of revival and achievement of a sense of integration across these colonias that share a common ancestry and similar raw materials. First, as they say in the real estate business, "location, location, location".
In this case, closeness to the economic and cultural power of Paseo de la Reforma is critical.
|Paseo de la Reforma,|
Where 19th Century Tradition and
21st Century Globalism Meet
|New Skyscraper Going Up|
at Intersection of Insurgentes and Chapúltepec Aves,
where Colonias Benito Juárez and Roma Norte meet
The second factor that drives Roma Norte's attractiveness for restoration and development lies within itself. In addition to its large number of historic homes, it has Avenida Álvaro Obregon, with its spacious, shaded camellón, promenade, and the north-south axis of tree-lined Calle Orizaba, with plazas near each end.
|Promenade on Álvaro Obregon|
|Plaza Río Janeiro near nothern end of Orizaba|
|Plaza Luis Cabrera near southern end of Orizaba|
In comparison, Santa Maria la Ribera has the spacious, tranquil Alameda Park at its center, with its Romantic Moorish Revival pavillion. But while this attracts people and has drawn, in turn, a few small cafes and triggered the restoration of some buildings around it, it has not developed enough weight to drive sustained renewal. The architectually interesting Neoclassic Geology Institute on one side of the Alameda has potential, but it seems under-used and semi-forgotten. It is no Casa Lamm or Casa del Libro.
|Moorish Pavilion in the Alameda of Santa Maria la Ribera|
San Rafael lacks any park or boulevard to serve as a center of attraction for people traffic and provide a core around which to build a sense of coherent identity, but its proximity to Reforma seems to transmit to it both commercial and residential vitality.
The Colonia That Has It All
So Roma Norte seems to "have it all" for attracting the people and money that produce restoration and renewed vitality: a large number of handsome historic buildings with "good bones", proximity to major urban axes, Reforma and Insurgentes, and, an internal "skeleton" of inviting public spaces for gathering and enjoying what the neighborhood has to offer: a revitalized and reimagined "dream of the city".
|Modern Art "dreams"|
in the Courtyard of Casa Lamm
- The Porfiriato: French Culture Conquers Mexico City
- The Grandeza of Porfirio Díaz
- Inside Porfirio's Palace
- Centro Historico Porfiriato - Late Nineteenth Century Mexico City
- Colonia Santa María la Ribera: Early Twentieth Century Century Popurrí
- Colonia San Rafael: Decay, Renewal and Restoration
- Colonia Benito Juárez: Where History Lives in the Shadows
- Colonia Cuauhtémoc: The First Decades of the 20th Century Marry the First Decades of the 21st
- Colonia Roma Norte Part I: Houses—and a Culture—That Survived a Revolution
- Colonia Roma Norte - Part II: Dreams in Stone and Glass...and Paint
- Colonia Condesa and Its Sisters - From Past to Present, Part I - Transition to the 1920's