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Regeneración Urbana Donceles

JC Arquitectura & Kiltro Polaris Arquitectura

Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico

May 2023


Juan Carral O'Gorman (Architect), Victor Imre Ebergenyi Kelly (Architect)


Jorge Viñas (Architect Sr.), Yissel Alanis Nolasco (Architect Jr.), Gerardo Pacheco (Architect Jr.), Oscar Flores (Civil Engineer)


JC Arquitectura, Kiltro Polaris Arquitectura & OH Abogados


Oscar Hernandez, Cesar Bejar, Albers Studio, Wacho Espinoza


Donceles: Community Regeneration Project encompasses a series of interventions in a neighborhood marked by significant socioeconomic contrasts. Through new housing schemes and the revitalization of public spaces, the project aims to increase housing density and repurpose underutilized land in a degradation process. The main goal is to construct sustainable buildings that foster integration, emphasize social engagement, and have a positive impact both locally and globally. This approach also aims to prevent the displacement of the original residents in order to dispel the specter of gentrification, which has affected other central areas in our cities. Additionally, it seeks to increase urban density and compactness by regenerating a neighborhood heavily affected by urban sprawl through the provision of high-quality domestic, commercial, urban, and social spaces.

The project aligns with the vision of creating a more inclusive city for all, stressing the importance of equitable access to urban amenities and services. By focusing on creating well-designed and accessible spaces, it aims to enhance residents’ overall quality of life, fostering a sense of community and belonging. It also aims to create a model for sustainable urban development that will be replicable in other areas, thus contributing to the broader goal of creating cities that are not only livable, but also socially and environmentally sustainable.


Colonia Donceles 28, located near Cancun’s foundational area, is a social housing neighborhood with distinctive socioeconomic contrasts that was developed by Mexico’s National Housing Fund Institute (INFONAVIT) in the early 1980s. Since it was designed to house those who would work in the hotel zone, the neighborhood was near its access. However, as the city grew, its urban sprawl gradually absorbed the neighborhood, which eventually gained a privileged position. Today, while the Donceles neighborhood continues to preserve its original character, it is located next to one of the areas with the greatest capital gain in the city (Puerto Cancún), which is near Puerto Juárez (the original town) and has access to the main roads to the rest of the city.


Traditionally, the area’s zoning only allowed single-family housing. However, by finding a regulatory loophole that allowed for increasing density, we started with the construction of a six-unit building. We were cautious with this first intervention, designing it with ground-floor parking and few housing units; however, it laid the foundation for future buildings. Now, every new building includes commercial space on the ground floor to increase urban activity. There are also a variety of housing typologies available to accommodate different family schemes by integrating short-term vacation units with long-term rentals. This approach recovers the immediate urban space, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of all the residents.

Today, ten buildings and several single-family houses later, the new dwellings have not displaced local residents. They are not meant to rehouse either but rather to create an improved environment that includes them. After eight years of continuous work in one part of the neighborhood, private investment has allowed these interventions to open the door to recovering public spaces. As a result, neighboring homeowners benefit from them, and new residents are able to acquire efficient housing in quality public spaces.

The area still poses challenges, but they have made us realize our shortcomings as a country and as a society, so we see them as windows of opportunity.

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