Some Mexican developers have taken a grim view of the future under President Trump, what with the possible collapse of the North America Free Trade Agreement and potential tax on foreign remittances, not to mention the shrinking value of the peso. But Thor Urbana is aggressively moving ahead with its ambitious plans for the country.
Thor Urbana, an affiliate of New York-based real estate development and investment company Thor Equities, on Tuesday said it has successfully completed an application to place a Capital Investment Certificate at the Mexican Stock Exchange. Thor Urbana wants to raise between $300 million and $400 million from retirement funds and qualified international investors. The company plans to use the resources to invest in lifestyle retail centers and mixed-use projects in key Mexican cities with a high population density and strong potential for economic growth.
Thor Urbana’s long-term investment of more than $1.4 billion encompasses 14 projects with a total of 10.75 million square feet of gross leasable space. “Seven of those projects are open and seven are under construction. They’re all fully funded,” co-chief executive officer Jaime Fasja said in an interview. “We’ve historically been funded by institutional foreign investors. We announced that this is the first time we’ll use Mexican institutional capital. Our current pipeline with many future projects will be funded by a mix of foreign and Mexican institutional capital.
“Mexico is still the second-largest economy in Latin America with 127 million people,” Fasja added. “We believe in the long term. We’re making an investment in brick-and-mortar that will be here for many years.”
There are benefits to building during an uncertain economy, such as lower construction costs. “There are fewer players looking for opportunities and less competition,” Fasja said. “Having long-term capital, we see opportunities in the current state of the economy.”
Fasja claimed Thor Urbana’s shopping and lifestyle centers are designed differently than traditional malls, which makes them more appealing to consumers. “There are no five-star entertainment centers in Mexico,” he said. “Most enclosed malls are boring and anchored by department stores. Typical department stores are losing ground every day.”
Thor Urbana’s properties dedicate more than 30 percent of GLA to food and beverage and entertainment uses. It’s about 10 percent to 20 percent in the U.S. In addition, the company reserves 50 percent of the land for outdoor uses. “We’re making a product that doesn’t exist,” Fasja said. “With the peso’s depreciation, we see pure consumption becoming stronger in the next couple of years.”
Over the next 12 months, Thor Urbana will complete projects including Town Square Metepec, a 900,000-square-foot fashion center, and Harbor Merida in Via Montejo, a mixed use development consisting of a lifestyle mall, luxury condominiums, office space and a hotel. Set to open over the next three years are the Park Lomas Verdes, a 490,000-square-foot lifestyle fashion center, and a new lifestyle mall in Torreón, one of Mexico’s most important economic centers.
Other Thor Urbana projects are located in Guadalajara, San Luis Potosí, Mérida, Estado de México and Belize.
The 200,000-square-foot Calle Corazón, adjacent to the Thompson Playa del Carmen, offers seven dining options including the Catch and Harry’s, a Mexican-Argentinian steak house. Seafood, Italian, sushi and Mexican cuisines are covered. “It’s become the center of gravity,” Fasja said. “The stores stay open until 11 p.m. You see people shopping after they finish their meals.”
A 700,000-square-foot mall and hotel under construction in Los Cabos is targeting tourists. “We’re seeing record numbers of tourists with the Mexican peso being so cheap,” Fasja said. “For the first time, tourism yielded more dollars than oil. Mexico is getting stronger as a tourist destination with year-over-year increases. We’ve been seeing Americans and Europeans and we’re starting to see Asians.”
Entertainment is also a key part of Thor Urbana’s retail approach and Fasja said the company is working with an American entertainment firm to create digital entertainment theme parks for each of its centers. Otherwise, Thor focuses on fast fashion and affordable luxury.
With so much GLA to fill, Thor Urbana is hoping to groom future retailers, chefs and artists with The Lab, an incubator for burgeoning businesses. “We’re targeting up-and-coming talent that may not have access to financial backing and infrastructure,” Fasja said. Those chosen will get a pop-up shop for eight to 12 weeks.
“If the concept is well-received by consumers, we will become a growth platform,” Fasja said. “If they get to scale, they could become one of our retailers. In most malls, you see the same stores. This gives consumers an excuse to come back and see what’s new.”