Once an area to be passed through en route from Bogotá’s city centre to the residential districts of the north, the Chapinero locality is experiencing its second renaissanace. Those with a keen eye for value are investing in its resurgence.
Usaquén was the original weekend country estate destination for Bogotá’s 19th Century elite. They would leave the red brick enclaves of La Merced, Soledad and Teusaquillo on horse-driven carts, passing through Chapinero, which evolved as Bogotá’s first satellite town, populated by potters, shoemakers and artists.
The area known as Lago — as its name suggests — was once a lake, extending from a very Parisian amusement park replete with carrousel and row boats.
It didn’t take long for the upper class Bogotanos to start building homes in Chapinero, inspired by English Tudor and other European architectural styles. The area, fed by multiple water sources from the Eastern Cerros, provided a fresh reprieve from the centro and an experimental breeding ground for cultural expression.
Cheap land in Chapinero meant more space and more lavish constructions. Many of these properties still stand today, but far too often hidden behind electric fences and heavy forestation, occupied by family descendants, universities, embassies and start-ups looking for affordable office spaces.
Chapinero remains a critical thoroughfare to key areas of the modern metropolis and one of the best vantage points to experience Bogotá between the National Park and the financial district around Calle 72.
Even though public perception during the 1970s and 80s marked this barrio as a “place to avoid,” the past 15 years has witnessed a migration south of the Avenida Chile (Calle 72) of more cash-liquid 30- and 40-somethings given its many small parks, trendy restaurants, organic supermarkets, specialty item stores and obligatory art galleries.
Even though Rosales and Chicó lead the way as the most exclusive parts to live in the “north” (the real north extending now beyond the Calle 200) and new construction prices in these two areas average a staggering $11 million pesos per square metre, much of this price growth has been fueled by a scarcity of development land available.
Compounding to the space crunch in Chicó, an estimated 1 million new inhabitants are projected to relocate to the capital over the next decade.
Alternative property price thinkers, as well as an increasing number of foreign émigrés now look to take full advantage of the value out there. Chapinero Alto (which includes the ‘Zona G’ gastro zone and Carrera 4) is cementing itself as a home base for that next generation of progressive residents, in a way similar to that in which Brooklyn has evolved into one of the most vibrant parts of New York City.
Rising real estate prices are sweeping south too, as these areas get the “status symbol” and high real estate prices in Santa Ana and Chicó Alto, push those on more modest budgets out.
And who wouldn’t love Chapinero! There are incredible city views, great access to the Séptima, and its close to the elevated Circunvalar ring road.
“Chapinero is the capital of diversity in Bogotá. People come here for opportunity and it’s at the heart of that opportunity,” claims Sam Miller, founder of Colombia International Real Estate.
But it is not just innovation that is sparking Chapinero’s second coming. Big business are also recognizing the opportunity. Starbucks took over a house in the Zona G and the Four Seasons Hotel recently finished a massive overhaul of the graceful Casa Medina.
The renaissance is also gaining wings. “What fuels gentrification? Coffee. When people are prepared to pay a couple of bucks for coffee, you know an area is moving up,” claims Miller, noting that in the U.S., homes located near a coffee shops are worth more and appreciate faster, than those that are not.
With last pieces of prime development land in Chapinero drying up, new residential properties close to the Zona G have crossed the $7 million pesos per square metre mark. With this land scarce in Chapinero Alto, developers are forced to acquire adjacent buildings, brownfield sites that aren’t under patrimonial protection, to redevelop into new residential and commercial properties.
Within a ten-minute walk from Zona G, there are outdated buildings and apartments that are begging for upgrades and renovations, to receive their entrance ticket to modern Chapinero.
“I bought in Quinta Camacho because it was 40 percent cheaper ($2.6 million per square metre) than Chapinero Alto, but still within walking distance to the restaurants of the Zona G. The area is likely to have one or two metro stations when fully developed, which should bring a lot of renovation and urban renewal with it,” states Mat Youkee, a UK expat, who bought a two-bed apartment in the Quinta Camacho back in 2013.
Chapinero has the path of progress on its side and gentrification is well underway. Parque Lourdes, which will possibly have a metro station, “is like Chelsea in New York and seeing the gay wave that is a precursor to gentrification,” claims New Yorker, Brian Siu.
The potential of the area has started to attract property developers such as First American Realty who in conjunction with Colombia International Real Estate will create 17 rental suites in the area at its Urban Heights Apartasuites project. The relatively low cost of real estate, and used construction prices means the first-time home buyer can cash in on an average of $4.2 – $4.8 million pesos per square metre.
“Both Starbucks and First American Realty Medellin (FARM) located big projects and businesses to Chapinero. Starbucks does some of the most sophisticated and advanced demographic research in the world. Chapinero offers value, location and great investor returns,” said FARM founder Rich Holman.
The impregnable love of arepas and empanadas leads many foreigners to think Colombian culture is against change, but a broader view shows how well-travelled Colombian visionaries seeking opportunity, looked out from their horse-drawn carriages 200 years ago and created much of the Bogotá that exists today. The innovation continues. Call it Chapinero.