By Randy Jackson
During the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-12), FONATUR relaunched a multi-year development plan for Huatulco (Relanzamiento del CIP Huatulco). This plan spelled out specific long-term development goals for each of the nine bays of Huatulco. The plan also included three large shorter-term projects that were initially funded by the Calderón administration. These were expanding the Huatulco Airport (completed in 2015), constructing the museum at the Parque Eco-Arqueológico Copalita (opened in 2010), and building Quinta Avenida – a pedestrian corridor connecting Santa Cruz and La Crucecita. This corridor project is still not complete, but after some years of inactivity, construction has now started on a number of the commercial lots along Quinta Avenida.
This pedestrian corridor goes by a few different names. One is Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue); it is also referred to as an andador turístico (tourist walkway), or as corredor turistico (tourist corridor). The corridor runs between Boulevard Benito Juárez in Santa Cruz, starting next to the Hotel Castillo, and the sports complex in La Crucecita. Many of us regular Huatulco-ites are familiar with this sunbaked 1.5-kilometer walkway that, for some years now, has maintained trees and shrubs and has security personnel on either end, looking at their phones.
My optimistic thoughts projected a soon-to-be completed pedestrian avenue, lined with shaded restaurant terraces, shops and hotels. Except here I’d like to paraphrase Woody Allen: “Optimism is the feeling you have before you understand what is going on.” The commercial construction projects along the pedestrian corridor would appear to be the start of the final stage of this project, but significant hurdles remain.
Development of the Pedestrian Corridor
The FONATUR plan for the corridor, issued in 2008, called for 33 lots with a parking area on each end. The plan spelled out in detail all the work to be undertaken by FONATUR to prepare the corridor, including water, sewer, internet and electrical infrastructure, as well as environmental impact and remediation. In 2009 the environmental approval for the corridor was granted, and then the project seemed to fall into a kind of dark age. Over the following seven years construction started and stopped. In 2014 there was a media report that the pedestrian corridor had been completely abandoned. Cables had been stolen by thieves and the company constructing the corridor had withdrawn.
But, as the children’s song goes, “The cat came back.” Sometime in 2016-17, FONATUR completed the project at a cost of 300 million pesos ($15 Million US) and the 33 lots went up for sale. FONATUR was looking for a single buyer of all 33 lots, and would not entertain selling individual lots. There were no takers. More years passed.
Then, following outside advice from a local business consortium, FONATUR reconfigured some of the lots that were too small, making 24 lots from the original 33. They then offered all of the lots for sale to individual buyers, and by September 2020 all 24 lots were sold. All of the lots are deemed as mixed commercial and residential. This means shops or restaurants on the ground level, and up to three stories above will be either hotels or apartments.
Following the lot sales, the pandemic delayed construction another two years, bringing us to the winter season of 2022-23. There are now a number of construction projects evident along the corridor. And this brings us to the unresolved issues facing the pedestrian corridor today.
Outstanding Issues with the Pedestrian Corridor
Pedestrian tourist corridors are a standard feature of FONATUR-developed resorts and exist in Cancun (Playa del Carmen) and Ixtapa. They are all named 5th Avenue after the famous shopping street in New York City. But unlike the pedestrian walkways in these other resorts, or any pedestrian street anywhere, Huatulco’s 5th Avenue climbs a (not insignificant) hill.
The biggest issue appears to be that of parking. The final phase of the pedestrian corridor project calls for parking lots at both ends as well as a pedestrian crosswalk to connect the corridor with the shops and businesses of Santa Cruz. The parking areas are yet to be developed, as FONATUR expects to sell the parking areas to a commercial parking lot investor for multi-level paid parking. To date these parking areas have not been sold and FONATUR is looking to the purchasers of the 24 lots along the corridor to collectively buy and develop the parking areas. My suggestion to anyone who suffers congestion anxiety is to suppress any thoughts of what traffic might be like with hundreds of new residents from the corridor, plus casual visitors, who need to cross the main thoroughfare into Santa Cruz at the traffic circle next to the Hotel Castillo.
Lastly, there is a temporary problem with electricity to the pedestrian corridor. When FONATUR built the 5th Avenue, the process of connecting the electrical network to the CFE system was not followed, leaving the purchasers of the lots without electricity. CFE is now providing temporary power until the exact protocol connecting the network is completed.
March is the month when many of us snowbirds migrate back northward, but construction on many developments in Huatulco continues throughout the summer, creating a buffet of surprises for us when we return next season. As for the pedestrian corridor, two of the construction projects have a posted completion date for the end of 2025. Assuming this is indicative of the other projects along the corridor, we can expect another couple years at least in the saga of Quinta Avenida Huatulco.