Medellin's Skyline is Booming, but Not All Make it to the Top...
Medellín is a city in the midst of impressive growth. With each year, the city warmly welcomes an ever-growing number of new inhabitants.
But how to contend with progress in a valley where space is restricted?
Vertical growth… This approach to urban expansion is evident throughout the valley. Dotted in every crook and cranny are towers being erected in force.
However, there is also another side to all of this. Did you know that Medellín is the ‘capital of structural failures in buildings’?
The most harrowing case in recent history, occurring in 2013, is that of Space Tower. One of the urbanization’s six towers collapsed resulting in the death of 12 and the displacement of many more.
This is not the only time a building has been levelled in the Aburra Valley, and not all cases are by accident…
On December 8th, 2022, the 116 apartments making up the Continental Tower were intentionally obliterated with 250kg of dynamite.
After an audit, the government determined that a collapse was probable and so decided to cheat time by preemptively destroying the decaying tower.
What Is the Cause of These Ill Buildings?
Of the 17 current cases of dangerous builds earmarked, the Administrative Department of Disaster Risk Management have identified a clear pattern: the approval of suspicious licenses and construction flaws realized by the companies in charge.
Such was the case in the aforementioned Space Building tragedy, occurring in the ritzy neighbour of El Poblado. Specifically, the court determined that the building did not comply with current regulations for retaining walls and did not respect the maximum height allowance. This appears to be a case of economic interests taking residence over safety.
The Atavanza building, located in the Rodeo Alto neighbourhood is another example. On June, 29th, 2022, a partial collapse left the retaining wall integrally impaired. The result of this? The entire building was demolished and 478 families were left without their homes.
Top 10 'Ill' Buildings in Medellin (4 evacuated, 1 destroyed and 5 still inhabited)
Below is a compilation of 10 different buildings considered unsafe & subject to collapse. The first 4 of the list include buildings so unsafe that they were evacuated, 1 that was destroyed and 5 considered ‘safe’ enough to inhabit. See if you can identify the common thread:
(1) Edificio Asensi – carrera 24D No. 10E-51 (El Poblado)
Evacuated in 2013 due to structural deficiencies. The building remains erect and was built by CDO; the same company responsible for Space and Continental Towers.
(2) Urbanización Mantua – carrera 31 No. 17 sur- 34 (El Poblado)
Also evacuated in 2013 due to seismic vulnerability and structural pathology.
The chief architect was Aristizábal Ochoa, who happened to be heavily involved in the engineering of Space, Asensi & Continental Towers.
(3) Edificio Kampala – carrera 73C No. 74A-116 (Robledo)
Abandoned in 2019 by the 72 families living there. Auditors have determined that the 14-floor building is at high risk of collapse.
(4) Edificio San Miguel del Rosario – located on calle 63A No. 40-15 (Barrio Villahermosa)
This building consists of 140 apartments. Take a guess as to the company responsible for it. CDO Builder Group (they have quite the portfolio). Fortunately, this building is currently undergoing restoration work that should be completed by 2024.
(5) Continental Towers – Loma del Padre Marianito (El Poblad0)
As mentioned above, the Continental Towers were demolished on December 8th, taking 3 seconds to level.
The Rest of The Buildings Listed Below are Deemed structurally Pathological, but 'Safe Enough' to Inhabit:
(6) Edificio Atalaya de la Mota – located on calle 3A Sur No. 81A – 4, Belén Rincón.
Although evacuated in 2019 due to integral structural issues, 285 families returned the same year after repair work was carried out.
(7) Edificio Arboleda de Rodeo – Located on calle 9 Sur No. 79c – 115, Belén.
In 2015, the Administrative Department of Disaster Risk Management discovered structural problems resulting in an urgent evacuation at 12 am. The concern was that the building would succumb to a landslide during heavy rain.
(8) Urbanización Cerezos de Calazania – Located on carrera 86C No. 53C-4
This estrato 3 tower containing 300 apartments was evacuated in 2014 after fears of collapse but residents have since returned. The building is being monitored after being developed by Group CDO; a developer of questionable integrity.
(9) Unidad Residencial Tricentenario – Located on carrera 63A No. 94A – 451
(10) Urbanización Altamira – Located in Comuna 7, Robledo.
Pablo's Old Home; the Mónaco Building
Perhaps one of the more polarizing instances of controlled demolition was that of Pablo Escobar’s old home. In February 2019, 25 years after Pablo’s death, the Alcaldia de Medellín (government) levelled the Mónaco building with 375kg of dynamite.
Was the building at risk of natural perish? No. Pablo’s luxurious bunker, located under the nose of the police in Poblado had shown great resilience during its life. The detonation of 2019 was not the first time that bombs had been set off in Mónaco…
In 1988, the Cali cartel, mortal enemies of Pablo, bombed the Monaco building with 150 lbs of dynamite in an attempt to assassinate him.
Although this blast destroyed all windows within a four-block radius, and killed 3 and injured 10, it was not enough to finish the Monaco building once and for all.
Fast forward to 2019, the mayor of the time, Federico Gutierrez, was determined to erase the building from Medellín’s skyline in an attempt to finish with Pablo’s legacy. On February 22nd, that is exactly what he did.
CDO at the Source of Problems
If you hadn’t noticed already, the common thread among many of these vulnerable buildings is the construction company CDO. They are responsible for the development of two buildings that have now collapsed: Space and Continental Towers, the former of which ended in disaster.
CDO are responsible for a series of scandals resulting in the bulk of dangerous buildings which are still here in Medellin.
Fortunately, they have been taken to court by the Alcaldia de Medellin and were made to pay out $30,882 million COP ($6.75 million USD) for the 2013 Space Tower tragedy.
In this case, the court required that they pay for 75% of the damages whilst the local administration covered the remaining 25%.
The bad news is that while the company has been liquidated, many of its subsidiaries have escaped justice and continue to be involved in building projects both inside and outside of the valley. Álvaro Villegas, owner of Constructora CDO,was Mayor of Medellín and twice Governor of Antioquia, which is why he is still an important figure in politics and the business sector in the area.
La Sociedad de Activos Especiales (SAE) - Seizing Assets From Illegal Activities
Interestingly, in Colombia, there is a company that specializes in the administration and management of assets formerly owned by the mafia or drug cartels.
According to their website, Medellin (and the surrounding municipalities) contain the highest number of available mafia assets for lease.
Did you know that the Aburrá Valley (including Medellín) currently has 416 occupied properties that are, or were, owned by the mafia?
If you are interested in a property that is opportunity priced because of suspicious ties to past drug activity, one company that we recommend that works specifically in this area is Loyalty Property Advisors (Mateo, +57 311 6109024).
El Poblado and Laureles, the two ritziest districts of the city, are where these assets are most concentrated. Also notable is the once-prosperous sector of El Centro and Robledo.
Also curious is that Envigado, located just south of El Poblado, but not part of the city, is missing significant data on the SAE database. Suspicious when you take into account that this was Pablo’s base of operations during the 1980s.
In El Poblado, the tourist hotspot of the city, there are 17 properties with links to the mafia. The price of these places ranges from $2,300,000 to $8,000,000 million per month for rental fees.
Enter the SAE website and you’ll see the company showcase their ethical integrity and transparency, but this hasn’t kept them out of the current government’s field of scepticism.
An anonymous official at SAE purports that some of these properties are used as a pad for dubious parties filled with drugs & prostitution.
Officials maintain that staff over at SAE are likely to receive a commission for such events. Therefore, they do have a vested interest, bringing into question both their integrity and transparency.
Hence, this is another reason why it is important to do your due diligence when looking for property in the valley.
THE CASE OF MERITAGE
So what could go wrong? Lets just take one example.
In the hills of Envigado in 2014, a brand new preconstruction project called “Meritage” was conceived. Land was purchased in the name of a Señor Iván López Vanegas and investor money was received. Fast forward a few years and, by 2018, the project was halted, the title over the land was forfeited by Ivan (called extinción de dominio) and he was extradited to the United States for ties to drug trafficking. It was alleged that Ivan and other co-investors were part of the infamous Oficina de Envigado drug cartel. Other investors in the project were left with nothing.
Don't Let Yourself be a Victim (Tips)
Medellín is currently home to some of the best-valued and most impressive real estate in the world. This is one of the big reasons why so many people come to the city each year.
With that being said, it pays to do your due diligence. Here are some tips that we shall impart:
- Choose builders with a long-standing professional track record. Look for construction companies such as Conconreto, Arquitectura y Concreto, Arconsa, Living Constructora S.A.S, InterCasa, Eme Propieded Raiz and Cantagirone, among others
- Always read sales contracts in case of hidden defects. Ascertain details such as, ‘how much time does the developer cover?’
- Do not invest until you have done a thorough investigation of the project.
- RUN if you see anything with ties to CDO (a notoriously corrupt developer).
- Only invest in Pre-construction projects that have a well-known fiduciary.
- Most importantly, consult an experienced and professional Real Estate Agent and attorney to guide you through the process.
Medellín may be known as the ‘capital of structural failures‘ but do not worry! This is largely the result of a single entity, corrupt and dubious in their practices.
The reality is that there are far more buildings being erected every year than there are buildings being abandoned, or worse, levelled to the ground. For example, for every 1 building that is demolished or condemned, hundreds of them are erected properly without issue.
Medellin’s skyline continues to grow; this is something that is evident to anyone in the valley. It seems that in any direction you look there are new projects.
In contrast to CDO, some of the best developers in the world are making their mark on the city with one example being Cantagirone. As we speak, they are building what will be the tallest and most luxurious tower in the valley, located in Poblado where demand for luxury builds is highest.
What we see in Medellin’s skyline today are the fruits of two separate building booms; one occurring in the 70s in El Centro and the current boom we see today, taking place throughout the entirety of the valley but mostly concentrated in El Poblado.
Questions, comments? Contact me today and I will be happy to discuss any of these issues further with you.