Monday, May 2, 2022

Buildings in Limbo

While wandering the streets of downtown Mexico City, I came upon a number of buildings that were abandoned or in the process of demolition or reconstruction.

For a quite a few years, when walking down Juárez Avenue, I have constantly shaken my head when passing a large, glass office building that has been empty and derelict... a vandalized eyesore on a street traversed by thousands of people, including many tourists, every single day.  Last week I noticed that barricades were in place all around the building, and that the entire structure was covered with a shroud of fabric, a sure sign that it is going to be torn down.

The building was constructed in the 1960s when Avenida Juárez was one of the most fashionable commercial streets in the city.  Juárez #92 housed numerous federal government offices, including the secretariat  of tourism.  The ground floor lobby included a large mural painting which you could still make out peering through the windows of the abandoned building.  In the earthquake of 1985 it suffered structural damage especially to the top floors. The structure was reduced to nine floors and supporting steel beams were added to reinforce the building.  It passed into the hands of the city government and for some fifteen years housed offices of the "Federal District".  In 2012 those offices moved to another location.  The property still was owned by the city government, but the building stood empty.

After years of deterioration, the city has finally sold the property and approved plans for private development.  A 27 story building with stores, a hotel, condos and offices is projected for the site.  I hope that they are able to salvage the mural painting inside, and use it in the new structure.

Just around the corner from Juárez #92, on Iturbide Street, I came upon another abandoned building, "El Palacio Chino", once one of the city's most elegant movie theaters.

The movie theater was opened in 1940.  Although the exterior was relatively simple, the interior was an extravaganza of pseudo- Asian decor with pagodas and even brooks crossed by Oriental bridges.  The cinema had 4000 seats, and the latest in cinematographic technology.  It was considered Mexico City's most deluxe movie theater.  

Eventually the "Palacio Chino" was stripped of its lavish interior and was turned into a multiplex with eleven theaters.  It was purchased by the Cinemex chain.  It closed it doors in 2012, and the abandoned building still stands as sad reminder of the era of palatial movie theaters.

My walk took me to the street known as "Artículo 123" named after an article of the Mexican Constitution that says that every person has the right to worthy and socially useful work.  In the 19th century when this street was called Providencia and this was a much better neighborhood, the British community in Mexico City was centered here.  In 1893 they build an Anglican church.  

When I came upon this abandoned church, it looked as if it had been transplanted from England, and, sure enough, a plaque on the outside identified it as a part of the Anglican Church of Mexico.

Soon after its construction the church suffered structural problems from earthquakes and uneven settling of the building into the soft soil.  In 1984 the church decided to relocate to the affluent neighborhood of Lomas de Chapultepec... a decision which proved to be wise since the building suffered more damage in the earthquake of 1985.

The building was renovated and became the British American Museum. It served as a cultural center with art exhibits, book fairs and concerts.  However, on Google Maps, that museum is listed as permanently closed.  I wonder if the structure suffered more damage in the 2017 earthquake.  The property is not completely abandoned.  There was a woman working in the atrium of the former church.  I asked her if the building was going to be restored, and she said that she hoped so.

Finally, just a block away on the corner of Bucareli Avenue, beneath the skyscrapers on the neighboring Paseo de la Reforma, this art deco building is empty and has barricades around it.

A sign on the building said that it has suffered damage in the 2017 and that it is being "rehabilitated" with private resources.




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