MEXICO CITY — Thor Urbana will build two malls in Tijuana and the Mexican luxury beach resort Riviera Nayarit as it works to develop five to seven mixed-use projects following a $270 million cash infusion.
The expansion comes on top of plans to open 10 shopping centers and five hotels in Mexico and Belize by 2020, co-chief executive officer Jaime Fasja told WWD.
The Mexican developer, a venture between New York and Mexican real-estate firms Thor Equities and GFa Grupo Inmobiliario, remains bullish on Mexico’s long-term economic prospects despite lingering jitters about the North American Free Trade Agreement’s potential cancellation, looming Mexican presidential elections in July and fresh earthquake scares; a 5.9-magnitude quake struck Oaxaca State on Monday, but also was felt in the Mexican capital, which is located 300 miles north.
Fasja insisted President Trump’s continual threats to cancel NAFTA — and two powerful earthquakes last fall that killed over 400 people and caused retailers an estimated $3.8 billion in losses — have not hobbled Thor’s expansion or forced it to delay the 15 projects unveiled last February.
“We have announced new projects since then and we are on track,” he said, adding that three key projects — the Harbor Mérida, Town Square Metepec in Mexico City, and The Landmark Guadalajara — are on schedule to open after the summer. “There is still uncertainty along the way but we still believe in the longer-term investment and demographics of the country,” he said.
Thor will stick to its strategy of targeting midsize cities with more than one million residents that have a strong tourism offer and growing economies, where it hopes to install mixed-use properties encompassing malls, hotels and residential towers.
Unlike rivals, Thor has a big focus on bringing the best gastronomical and entertainment offers to its malls, which also feature pop up stores from The Lab concept to support emerging designers and enable them to eventually open their own stores.
“Tijuana is very interesting in terms of its culinary offering,” Fasja said. “It used to be the just a border town with over 2 million people but it is becoming the culinary center of Mexico and more and more people are driving down from San Diego to eat. We also have the Guadalupe Valley wine country nearby.”
The Tijuana development will be mixed retail, hotel and residential and construction will begin in the third quarter with a planned finishing date of 2021, according to Fasja.
“In TJ, it is going to be all about entertainment, bringing very interesting concepts that include virtual reality mixed with local artists and with a very big food component,” Fasja added.
He said Thor will also roll out itinerant shows from Mexican groups on a weekly basis, both in Tijuana but also in other malls across Mexico.
The executive could not immediately provide details on the Nayarit project other than to say construction will start in late 2018 for completion in 2021. The site will be located in the beach town of Punta Mita, where Kourtney Kardashian recently vacationed with boyfriend Younes Bendjima.
Home to pristine beaches, the area is quickly becoming dotted with luxury resorts including the new One&Only set to open later this year in the nearby $1 billion Mandarina development.
As for the recent earthquakes, Fasja claimed none of its upcoming projects were negatively impacted. “Most of our malls are not in Mexico City and that was the epicenter” of the most powerful, 7.1-magnitude tragedy that hit the capital last September, paralyzing retail, he said. Thor complies with Mexican anti-quake building codes, something that some rival developers owning quake-damaged malls were criticized for flouting.
Regarding the Lab Concept, Fasja said many designers are getting ready to open their own stores in six to eight months beyond the initial pop-up locations opened last year. He would not, however, provide any names.
With an eye to the future, Thor is looking to expand in Latin America with Colombia, Peru and Panama as “countries where we have seen potential and where we could announce projects in the next 18 months,” Fasja said. He added that Colombia, which has a fast-growing economy propelled by booming investment on the back of a recent guerrilla peace deal, could be the first country Thor enters beyond Mexico and Belize.
Thor’s recent funding round took place in two, 2.5 billion-peso (or $270 million) tranches: the first featured a $135 million infusion of so-called Capital Development Certificates, or CKDs, used to bankroll real estate projects from Mexican pension funds or Afores. The other $135 million came from a group of Canadian and other unnamed international pension funds and investors.