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Development of el Obraje

By Jesús Aguado

The largest fine charged by the local administration is 1,460,800 pesos, said the director of the Ecology Department, Norberto Carbajo.

On the other hand, although Mayor Ricardo Villarreal said it has nothing to do with the fine, the developers of the parking lot at El Obraje donated a plot for the construction of a public plaza in colonia Azteca.

At El Obraje, there was also an abandoned construction site that, according to Mayor Villarreal “looked awful,” on which a hotel is now being built that will reactivate the economy of the zone and will improve the urban image.

The parking lot and the fine

In August this year, neighbors from the barrio El Obraje requested a meeting with Atención to show their concern about the construction of a parking lot. They handed over a copy of the letter submitted at the offices of the local government and addressed to 11 directors and Mayor Ricardo Villarreal. The letter stated that months ago heavy construction equipment had been working in an undercover and clandestine manner on a large portion of the green hill. The work, according to the letter, resulted in possibly dangerous crumbling in an alleged federal zone. The complainants also stated that the construction zone had been allocated for ecological preservation, and that there was ecological damage.

Those who signed the letter requested immediate intervention of the local government to identify those responsible for the impact and a halt to the construction until the permits were reviewed. They also complained that their opinion about the project had not been taken into account. The neighbors requested “to bring this area to its prior state and to replenish and satisfy any other damage or prejudice that the authorities assess to the responsible parties.”

Other neighbors, who asked to remain anonymous, told Atención that there were more possible projects for a housing development, a hotel, a parking lot, restaurants, and stores in the area that could cause flooding and affect the zone.

A representative from Santa María del Obraje granted an interview with Atención “to clarify several topics.” The representative stated that the area where the parking lot is being constructed has been in the project since 1980, designated then to be a parking lot. He also commented that there were two platforms in the zone already prepared for parking, and they were being used by the teachers and parents of students from the José Vasconcelos School in order to prevent mobility problems on the two-way street that is also used by suburban public transportation. “The 45-degree cut area looks quite exaggerated, but it will

be reforested. We cannot have a 90-degree cut because it would be more dangerous.” Our source of information acknowledged that all of those concerned have a legitimate interest in the topic.

Addressing the permits topic, the investor and owner also commented that his company has all the permits needed to perform the construction work. “Now the local authorities are reviewing them, and we will wait for resolution,” he said, assuring that after the resolution came out, he would let us know. However, when we tried to have an interview with him, he never responded to e-mails, our calls, or the notes we left at his office. Finally, during our interview in August, the owner said that there was a lack of communication with the general public, but he sends a message to all those concerned about the work: “They can rest assured that we will only construct the parking lot, no more.” He shared with Atención that the parking lot, in accord with the environment, will have three platforms, and the walls will be camouflaged with native plants and trees.

This month, Norberto Carbajo told us that the area had been inspected, and it was determined that there was ecological damage. He made it clear that “it was not major damage,” remarking that only a couple of mesquites and another tree (pirul) were cut down. He never specified the number but said that some native plants were damaged as well as weeds in general. Carbajo said that the damage was gradual over several years, but he noted that this administration can legally fine only those responsible for the damage caused in the last two years. The fine, said the director, was 20 thousand minimum wages (that is, almost one and a half million pesos). The director also assured that the developer was notified and accepted the documents. Now they are negotiating whether he will pay in cash or with some plots for ecologic development. The developer also has to start mitigating work immediately.

Donation of a plot

The company representative donated a lot to the local administration. It is situated next to calles Cuahutémoc and Moctezuma in colonia Azteca. When it took possession of the land, the administration assured that the area was to be used to construct a Cultural Center for the neighbors. Mayor Villarreal assured that the donation had nothing to do with—and is not part of—the fine given to the company that develops the parking lot. This construction was to have nine levels and, thanks to the intervention of the authorities, now it will have just four.

Felipe Tapia Campos, director of Public Works Department, told Atención that the plaza construction will be in four phases with a final investment of nine million pesos. The amount tendered for the construction will be published in a few weeks, and the construction should start before the end of this year.

Aqua Life Hotel

Mayor Villarreal also mentioned that the long abandoned construction in this area of El Obraje, which is currently returning to importance, would be redeveloped as a hotel. “It is a construction … that has been there for a long time and now will reactivate the economy of the zone and also will improve the urban image,” he said. He also remarked that the construction currently has three stories and that, according to the plans of the developers, it will not have more stories or a higher level.

The investment, according to Governor Miguel Márquez Márquez, is totally Mexican, and it is one of the most important in the city. The investment will be 1.5 billion pesos in the end. When the Grupo Posadas y Fibra Hotel made the announcement to the city, they said that the construction will be a luxury hotel with 135 rooms, a cultural center, and an ecological area. The new, which will be called Aqua Live, will be the fourth hotel in Mexico belonging to this chain.

Governor Márquez highlighted that the hotel would be part of Centro Cultural Santa María del Obraje, that it would be of world class quality, and that it will improve the touristic attraction of San Miguel. “I am very proud of San Miguel because it is the heart of Mexico and also the window of Guanajuato to the world,” he concluded.


El Obraje

In the area now known as El Obraje, there are registers indicating that there had been a fabric factory since 1725, and it was the most productive of the region. This company was administered by Baltasar de Sauto, a man who emigrated from Europe and arrived in the village of San Miguel El Grande. In 1732 he became the administrator for María Antonia de Urtusuástegui—wife of Severino de Jauregui. The family was one of the wealthiest in the village and among their businesses was the factory that provided employment to 400 families and annually produced 70 thousand gold pesos. Sauto inhabited the area that is currently known as Centro Cultural Santa María del Obraje. This information comes from historic investigator Richard J. Salvucci.


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