The World Heritage Committee examined the situation derived from the demolition of 14 historical buildings in the property during its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008). A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out from 19 to 23 January 2009 to assess the impacts of these actions on the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property. The Trust for the Historic Centre of Mexico City submitted a report in 27 February 2009 that presents information concerning its projects for the revitalization of the Historic Centre of Mexico City and additional information for Xochimilco.
The report states that a new inclusive management model is currently under consideration to develop a model that empowers society through participation. The revitalization process is centred on the regeneration of public space, the consolidation of the needs to guarantee basic public safety standards, the revitalization of cultural and economic activities and the sustainability of the management plan. As such, programmes have been developed and are being currently implemented for restoration of streets, recovery of public spaces, recovery of historical monuments, restoration of property facades, creation of pedestrian corridors, public security, culture and education, and finance and economy.
Actions implemented under the public space recovery programme include the relocation of informal street commerce, which led to the demolition of the buildings in 2007 to create those relocation spaces. Originally, 36 properties were designated for the relocation of commerce. The report informs about the success of implementing the policy for relocating informal commerce in the revitalization of the historic centre and states that the demolitions occurred at a time when there was no coordination between the federal and local authorities. Since then, efforts have been made to develop a cooperation framework and strong agreements between parties. It also highlights the procedural inconsistencies and the lack of updating of the inventory of historic monuments. It reports that only 9 demolitions took place and provides an illustrated report of the conditions of those buildings prior to the demolitions as well as their status, including those considered derelict and unrecoverable and those that posed risks to the population because of the advanced state of decay. An agreement has been reached between the two levels of government to develop high quality architectural projects in the areas where historical monuments were demolished. In addition, the report indicates that in 2008 more than 400 facades were rebuilt and improved and has created agreements to stimulate housing development through the regeneration of properties. Activities are also being implemented to promote the use of public spaces for educational and cultural activities and also to enhance visitation to the Historic Centre. Additional strategies are also in place to promote the economic nature of the Centre, such as strengthening of enterprises, fiscal incentives, among others. Detailed projects on the future interventions were not sent.
The report also mentions progress made to date in the implementation of the management plan for Xochimilco, including those for water management, territorial ordering and accessibility, sustainable use, and conservation and dissemination of cultural heritage. It also mentions the current operational levels of the Interdependency Commission created in 2007 and progress made in coordinating actions between the federal government, the government of Mexico City and the local governments (delegaciones). The creation of the management unit is currently being examined.
Finally, the mission produced recommendations with regard to domestic trade, changes in land use and affectation of heritage properties derived from the programme. Also part of the institutional aspects and sustainability in conservation and development of the Historic Centre of Mexico; there is a need to develop a participatory “Management plan for the Historic Centre of Mexico City”, based on the system of heritage values of the property and to design an “Integral System for the Historic Centre in the city of Mexico”, which is understood as an essential component towards assuring the property’s sustainability. Different planning instruments to facilitate inter-institutional agreements and to strengthen the capacities of agencies mandated with heritage conservation should be the base for the development of these tools.
b) Demolition of historical buildings in the protected area in the historical centre of Mexico
The mission report analysed the impact of the demolitions and the effects the informal commerce relocation, and other programmes, have had on the Historic Centre. It also noted the efforts made to coordinate actions between different agencies to avoid this sort of situation in the future. The mission report notes that until a participative inter-institutional management plan, which integrates and articulates different social, economical, cultural, environmental, urban, architectonical and heritage values, is not developed the ongoing intervention process can accelerate the already sensible loss of social memory. It also notes that effective coordination has yet to be achieved among the institutions such as Instituto Nacional de Bienes Artisticos (INBA) and Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) in spite of the creation of the Historic Centre Authority, which is also hindered by the absence of planning instruments and appropriate inter institutional agreements. Inventories need to be updated to promote effective conservation and definition of regulations for buildings considered significant, including those of the XX century. The constraints in financial and human resources at federal agencies contribute to the limited efficacy and promptness to address demands and analyse proposals for intervention at the Centre.
The mission also notes that the authenticity and integrity of the heritage property is threatened by deterioration, structural risk and abandonment of a large quantity of private property heritage buildings that could collapse in a short period of time if not intervened. The existent regulations and administration control structures are not strong enough to apply sanctions due to abandonment; on the other hand, it has not been yet possible to identify financial management channels in order to initiate processes of social and economical recovery to assure sustainability.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS note that although several actions that had an impact on historic monuments are being implemented, the values and significance of the Historic Centre are not at the core of the decision-making processes of the involved agencies. Furthermore, a holistic conservation policy has yet to be established to address both parts of the property, the Historic Centre and Xochimilco.
While progress has been made in regard to Xochimilco, press information indicates that there are works in progress to build a new subway line that might potentially impact in the property and its associated area Several environmental groups and NGO’s have indicated that these works will negatively impact the agricultural vocation of the area, the aquiferous mantles and the foreseen increase in urban development in these areas.