New convention center under construction
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
San Miguel has lacked a public meeting space with sufficient room to hold large events such as the GIFF (Guanajuato International Film Festival), but that is beginning to change. In June 2012, Miguel Márquez Márquez (then candidate for governor) visited the city and told Atención that a convention center with space for 3,000 would be built in the city and that he already had looked into the cost of buying the former Cine Hermanos Aldama. “If I win,” he said, “we will see whether we can buy the building.” On October 10, 2012, when Mayor Trejo was sworn in, he said that in eight days the first stone of a new convention center would be set; this finally happened on January 13, 2013.
La Casona de Allende (Allende’s Mansion) is the name of the convention center being constructed at Salida a Celaya 79 (on the circus grounds), and it should be finished in 18 months, at a cost of 40 million pesos. The 3,000-square-meter convention center will have a salon and patio that seat 500, an auditorium for 100 persons, two dressing rooms and two meeting rooms. With the convention center, developers and the local government hope to attract business tourists to San Miguel during the week.
La Casona de Allende
“It emerged from a dream,” the developers said of the new convention center. During the presentation of the project, Benigno Torres, one of the developers, said that San Miguel needed a convention center to increase hotel occupancy and make use of services in the city. The convention center could be a venue for exhibits, cultural events and conferences and help make San Miguel one of the world’s prime tourist destinations not only for pleasure but also for business.
Ernesto Gómez, architect for the project, commented that along with Torres he started working in San Miguel with the boutique hotel Casa Primavera, and they know and understand how tourism works in the city. “If there is a wedding, our rooms are full during the weekend, but on Monday our rooms are empty. I thought we did not know how to operate,” said Gómez. But they realized that the problem was that the city needed a convention center. The design will match San Miguel’s architectural style. It will be “beautiful, and of quality, but with convention center facilities,” Gómez said of the new edifice.
Social, cultural and economic benefits
José Arturo Durán Miranda, secretary of Guanajuato Public Works, said that the new convention center, more than a business for the investors, represents the opportunity for jobs for sanmiguelenses. With this center, commented Durán, the recovery of San Miguel as the main tourist draw in the region will begin, and with it a decrease in crime and an increase in employment. In addition, Durán said that the social, cultural and economic benefits of the convention center would help mark San Miguel as “an attractive and secure municipality with a quality of life that will allow visitors and locals to enjoy its hospitality.”
Trejo, during the unveiling of the plaque that will identify the building, said that there is a plan to construct an auditorium over El Cardo parking lot that would have “the best panoramic view of the Mexican Republic” and would keep the parking lot alive. “I will pursue its construction and soon I will have a meeting with those interested,” he said.
Jim Dolan, who owns the former cinema Los Aldama, told Atención that this convention center is something that San Miguel needs and it is a very welcome addition to the infrastructure of the city.
Don Luis Ferro, one of the owners of Plaza Real del Conde, said that even if hotels such as Real de Minas have spaces for holding conferences, they just meet their own needs and that this new convention center will meet the needs of guests at smaller hotels. “San Miguel de Allende has been waiting for this for a long time ago, especially those involved in tourism, and I hope it can be finished soon,” he said.
GIFF interested in La Casona de Allende
Plaza Real del Conde, located on the road to Querétaro, is a partially vacant mall that contains a large salon with a capacity for 10,000 people that could be used as an auditorium. Don Luis Ferro said that the plaza is not for sale, but in the future, if he can persuade the 40 owners to agree, they could build an auditorium in the plaza. Sarah Hoch, director of the GIFF (Guanajuato International Film Festival), commented that because of the current condition of the space it could not be used as an auditorium. It would need to be better equipped, and most of the festival’s budget would be expended on renovation. The parking lot of the shopping center, including the lot used for the Tuesday market, can hold at least 2,000 vehicles, according to Ferro.
The former cinema Los Aldama on calle San Francisco near the Jardín was used by the GIFF in 2011 for movie screenings and as an auditorium in 2012 by the National Association of Dentists. It is currently for sale, and according to Hoch it is the perfect space for the GIFF in San Miguel. It has seating capacity for more than 1,000. Mayor Trejo said that if the owners can agree on the price the municipal government could buy it. “We have the money,” he remarked. According to Gisela Zavala, who works in public relations for Vista Antigua, the selling price is US$2,900,000.
Hoch said that the new convention center is important for the film festival because, although it does not have the seating capacity required, with room in the auditorium for only 100 people, they could hold lectures and even the inaugural dinner there. She said that the festival will be held in San Miguel again this year but they need this center and other meeting places already being developed in the city to put on an event similar to the one held in Guanajuato. The festival was moved to Guanajuato in 2011 because the available venues in San Miguel were not large enough. Hoch commented that San Miguel does not need Guanajuato’s infrastructure but does need two or three new spaces. She also said that the GIFF requires a theater with a capacity for 1,000 people and quality spaces for the movie screenings “because we are a worldwide competitive festival. Showing movies in public plazas is fun, but movies in competition need to be shown under the best conditions. If we do not have them, we cannot compete with international festivals or get premieres.”
Trejo said that it is important to hold the festival again in San Miguel, “but it is necessary to have agreement with the organizers. They need to give San Miguel the importance that it deserves, and for that we need events with big media impact and red carpets. If we cannot reach an agreement the festival will not come back to the city.” Federal legislator Ricardo Villarreal said that he and his brother, Luis Alberto Villarreal, have secured five million pesos from the federal government to hold the festival again in San Miguel.