The Renaissance of Mexico City by the Numbers
Entrepreneurs and civic leaders are breathing new life into the capital. A look at some of the figures behind the revitalization.
By Matt O'Grady
Great things are happening in Mexico City. With a population that’s young, educated and entrepreneurial, the capital city has recently become a hotbed of creativity and innovation.
“Back in the modernist times, the ideal of a city was an efficient city, one that could get you from A to B the fastest,” says Gabriella Gómez-Mont, founding director of Laboratorio para la Ciudad (Laboratory for the City), a new department of the Mexico City government geared toward harnessing creativity and improving civic engagement. “Today cities are as much about place-making, visibility and creative culture.”
Economic opportunities, big and small
As the largest capital in the Americas, Mexico City is a hub for just about every multinational company. Many of those companies are lining up along the city’s central boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma, where about a dozen towers are either under construction or in the planning stages. The city’s tallest tower, however, remains the 55-storey Torre Mayor – the 2003 building by the late Canadian developer Paul Reichmann – which has been called one of the strongest buildings in the world due to its ability to withstand powerful earthquakes.
While Mexico City remains Latin America’s most important corporate headquarters, it is also a burgeoning centre for small- to medium-size start-ups. There are currently 45 venture capital funds registered in Mexico – most of them located in Mexico City and up from 14 funds in 2012 – each providing necessary capital for would-be tech entrepreneurs. Small businesses are also booming – a function, Gómez-Mont says, of the fact that 50 percent of the city’s population is under the age of 26 and half of these work in the informal economy, which tends to foster an entrepreneurial mindset.
Building a sustainable future
If you haven’t been to Mexico City in 20 years, you might be surprised by the improvements made in liveability. In 1992, the United Nations called the city’s air quality the worst on the planet, but today it has air pollution levels similar to those of Los Angeles.
There are now incentives, from government and lenders, to re-densify the urban centre and reduce commute times. The city has expanded its Hoy No Circula (No-Drive Days) program, which limits who can drive in the city on which days, and it introduced state-of-the-art rapid-transit buses in 2005. Meanwhile, Ecobici, North America’s largest bike-share program, has added more than 6,000 bikes to Mexico City’s roads since 2010. On Sundays, many of those bikes can be found on Paseo de la Reforma – which, for that day anyway, is completely car-free.
The enlightened city
One of the enduring draws of the capital is its rich tapestry of educational and cultural institutions. Mexico City is home to Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, or UNAM, the largest Spanish-speaking university in the world. Mexico graduates more than 118,000 engineers each year – many of them from UNAM.
On the cultural front, Mexico City boasts that it has more museums (150) than any other city in the world and has, since the 1990s, become one of the hottest contemporary-art scenes on the planet.