In Mexico City, officials gathered high above the urban center Wednesday to witness the placement of the last steel columns at the top of what will soon be the tallest building in Latin America. The Torre Mayor, the grand tower, is also a symbol of the country's economic strength.
Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and other officials joined Canadian construction designer Paul Reichmann on a scaffold high over the city to see the beginning of the final phase in the project. Mr. Reichmann said the Torre Mayor is a physical representation of Mexico's economic vigor.
Although the worldwide economic slowdown has had a debilitating effect on all of Latin America, foreign investment has continued to flow into Mexico. Mr. Reichmann said the $300 million invested in the Torre Mayor demonstrates the faith investors have in Mexico's economic future. Mr. Reichmann added foreign investors see that the Mexican economy is in good hands.
The slowdown in the United States has had a negative impact on Mexico, but most economists believe that effect will be temporary and forecast an improvement next year as the U.S. economy resumes growth. Representatives of Mexico's twin plant, or maquiladora, export sector on Wednesday released figures showing a dramatic slowing of growth. In previous years, the assembly plants, which are mostly located on the border, were increasing production by about ten percent annually. This year that growth has slowed to about one percent.
Some Mexico City residents have also questioned the wisdom of building the Torre Mayor because of concerns over the impact it will have on the local infrastructure and because of safety concerns. Mexico City has experienced some strong earthquakes over the years, but engineers say the advanced technology used in the construction of this skyscraper will help it withstand even the most powerful tremor.
Some critics also questioned the idea of building such a tall structure at a time when the terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center is still a fresh image in people's minds. But ground-level construction on the Torre Mayor had already begun several months before September 11 and there is little expectation of a terrorist threat against buildings in Mexico.
The steel and glass tower, which will have 55 stories when it is ready for occupation in December, is located on Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma. It is in close proximity to the Mexican Stock Exchange building and the headquarters of several major banks and brokerage firms. When it is complete, the building will provide 43 floors for offices, 13 levels of parking and a two-level commercial center with 3,000 square meters of space for stores, restaurants and other attractions.