By Julie Etra
I don’t know how many of our readers were a bit perplexed upon returning to Huatulco to find a few of our favorite restaurants and Huatulco Dive Center gone from the Chahué marina. Many a memorable meal, and many memorable dives with HDC, from that marina. The boat yard has also been cleared out, although boats remain docked, and the marina is still functioning. There is a new seafood taco truck, Marea Alta (high tide), parked at the entrance – yum! Thumbs up!
FONATUR (Fondo Nacional de Fomento de Turismo) is the federal agency that manages tourism, primarily in the form of real estate; FONATUR developed Bahías de Huatulco, and owns and manages the marina and environs. The agency is in the early phases of developing a large conference and meeting center, with plans to include retail shops, restaurants, a cultural center, a theatre, green spaces, and other tourist amenities.
But given the outcome of Avenida 5 (Fifth Avenue – the short cut from Santa Cruz to La Crucecita), which was originally designed to support retail stores, I questioned the viability of this ambitious project and the potential businesses it would attract. A Conference Center? For what type of conference(s)? Several years ago, I investigated hosting a meeting for an international organization on whose Board of Directors I served, and toured Dreams as well as Las Brisas. At least at the time it seemed both resorts would be able to handle a mid-sized conference and perhaps associated trade show, and both appeared very attractive and comfortable, with all the amenities including hotel rooms, restaurants, etc., and a BEACH.
When I discussed with The Eye editor Jane Bauer the possibility of writing this article, she commented that I might have difficulty finding much detail. Well, she was right, but I did find the basics, although the information may be outdated at any moment.
The development is a collaboration between Fonatur and the State of Oaxaca, represented by the current Governor Alejandro Murat Hinojosa. The project has selected the firm TEN Arquitectos, founded and led by the gifted architect Enrique Norten; TEN has worked on major projects around the world.
For this project, TEN was commissioned to design a sophisticated facility centered around the existing marina, in itself a major attraction. Listed on the TEN Arquitectos website as Centro de Congresos Chahué, TEN is “carrying out the preliminary studies” and has developed the project management schedule; according to Norten’s posting on the Facebook edition of Revista entre rayas (Between the Lines Review), they are in the final phase of producing the construction documents.
A visit to the site reveals that construction has begun with the removal of the boat yard and concrete pavement of the marina. A cul-de-sac, with improved infrastructure, eliminating the access road from the east side, was completed last year.
The center will consist of 11,000 square meters (approximately 3 acres) of new built structures, associated infrastructure, and public and green space. The principal auditorium will consist of approximately 1,580 square meters (approximately 17,000 sq. ft), with a capacity of 1,285 people. It will feature a stage, state-of-the art acoustics and lighting, and breakout rooms for smaller venues. A wide range of “world-class” activities is envisioned, including concerts, exhibits, academic conferences. Of course, the administrative offices of Marina Chahué will be upgraded and continue to operate in the new complex.
For the time being this is exciting, I think, as this classy facility will of course attract more people, but I am a little selfish and protective of this small community. On the other hand, I am not holding my breath. After all, the Oaxaca City/coast highway has been under construction for twelve years.