Quake Threatens to Cause Flight From Mexico City’s Hip Neighborhoods

Some of the biggest fans of Roma and Condesa worry that the Tuesday earthquake, which killed at least 286 people in Mexico, could slow if not reverse the ascendant popularity of the neighborhoods.

“Now and the next couple of years, it’s going to be a factor,” said Eduardo Aizenman, co-owner of El Péndulo bookstore and cafe, which became an engine of Condesa’s post-1985 renaissance. “I am sure many people will be putting their properties in the market.”

Roma and Condesa were largely developed in the early 20th century for the city’s elite, who luxuriated in grand villas built along tree-lined boulevards. By midcentury, the area’s popularity among the wealthy had begun to wane, with many residents moving to increasingly fashionable areas, like Polanco and Las Lomas, or to newly developed suburbs, like Ciudad Satélite.

The 1985 earthquake accelerated this flight. Businesses closed, property values plunged, crime jumped.

Mr. Aizenman, 52, moved to Condesa in 1991, drawn to the cheap rents and atmosphere of possibility, even if it was an entertainment wasteland. “There was nothing here,” he recalled.

He opened El Péndulo two years later. Restaurants, bars, art galleries and boutiques followed. Notable properties were restored. Real estate values leapt. Condesa was back on top.

Roma was slower, rebounding within the past decade. Both neighborhoods had entered the firmament of the world’s hippest urban precincts: “Mexico City’s reigning axis of cool,” declared GQ Magazine last July.

Then came Tuesday’s 7.1 magnitude earthquake, which seriously damaged or destroyed a significant cluster of buildings in Roma and Condesa.

While Mexico City’s older central districts are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because they sit on the soft ground of a residual lake bed, Roma and Condesa are no more at risk than other central neighborhoods, said Gerardo Suárez, a senior researcher in the Seismology Department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

And, indeed, other areas in the city were also badly hit.

Still, the memories of 1985 combined with this week’s trauma have shaken the once-unbridled love of the two neighborhoods.

“Many residents feel a big distrust because it’s evident that it’s not a safe place to live,” said Mr. Bustos, a philosophy professor at Anáhuac University, whose apartment building was damaged enough to force the evacuation of all the residents.


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