MEXICO CITY — Thor Urbana plans to invest over $1.4 billion to open 10 shopping malls and five hotels and resorts in Mexico and Belize by 2020, its founders said as they unveiled a new designer sale platform called The Lab.Thor, a joint venture of New York and Mexican real-estate developers Thor Equities and GFa, will pursue the expansion despite a deteriorating economic outlook in Mexico, where U.S. President Donald Trump's plans to modify the North American Free Trade Agreement and potentially tax foreign remittances are putting international investors on tenterhooks."We see a Mexico of opportunities and we are a long-term investor," Thor Urbana's co-chief executive officer said when asked if a possible recession in Latin America's second economy would force it to scrap any ventures. "We are not canceling any projects but actually launching new ones of which you will hear more this year."The firm, which is behind Mexico's first Ritz Carlton Hotel set to open in 2019, intends to develop almost 11 million square feet, or 15 projects, in three years. This would enlarge its network from around 3 million square feet currently.In the next 12 months, it will inaugurate 3.8 million square feet of new space, including a shopping center in Metepec, a rusty town in the Toluca, Mexico City area, and a more high-end retail, apartment and office tower complex dubbed the Landmark Guadalajara, facing rival Sordo Madaleno's Andares luxury mall in the city's well-heeled Puerta de Hierro residential district.Another retail center will also open in Merida by 2018. Further down the road, there are mall projects in San Luis Potosi and Torreon, midsize cities with undeveloped retail. A private resort island called Caye Chapel in Belize is also earmarked for early 2019.To beat other developers that are reportedly set to open a total of 54 malls in Mexico this year, Thor Urbana has launched The Lab to help new designers sell in pop-up stores — a concept it boasted is the first of its kind in Latin America. The firm won't charge rents but will collect 5 to 15 percent of sales, according to co-ceo Jimmy Arakanji."We want to provide emerging designers with a platform to approach the public through pop up stores in innovative spaces," he said.Thor will feature 12 to 20 pop-ups, rotating every eight to 12 weeks, Arakanji added. The area will promote local talent but will also help established brands tap consumers through capsule collections or international labels test unknown markets. The concept has drawn several designers who Fasja said will be revealed soon.Thor sets itself apart from Sordo Madaleno, an architecture firm behind high-end mixed-use centers like Antea in Mexico City and most recently Andamar in Veracruz, by giving food and entertainment "more relevance," Arakanji said."Around 30 to 40 percent of our malls offer food and 60 to 70 percent retail including fashion and accessories," he noted, adding that Thor's malls are home to international retailers including H&M, Sephora, Hollister, Puma, CK Calvin Klein and Swarovski, among others.The developer also owns retail space in Mexico City's upmarket shopping strip Masaryk, the country's answer to New York's Fifth Avenue, where it plans to open a new, three-story shopping center called Masaryk 120 in the medium-term.
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