Donning white helmets and clutching gold-plated shovels, dignitaries led by U.S. Consul General Robin Matthewman broke ground at the site of the new U.S. consulate general in Guadalajara, Tuesday, May 14.
About 120 guests were invited to the ceremony at the 3.4-hectare property located on Avenida Manuel Acuña in Colonia Monraz Terrazas.
Scheduled to open in the fall of 2022, the new diplomatic mission will cost US$374 million.
After remarks (in Spanish) by Matthewman and Henry Jardine, principal deputy director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations of the U.S. Department of State, the governors of Jalisco and Nayarit and the mayor of Guadalajara were asked to pick up the shovels to symbolically begin construction.
In addition, representatives from various Mexican government agencies, including immigration, the federal police and the military, were present at the ceremony.
Speaking at the event, Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro said it took two years of consultations with neighbors to convince them that their concerns would be addressed. He assured them that the consulate would be good for the neighborhood, bringing both order and respect. Alfaro noted that the area has been cleaned up in the last few years, with a reduction in street vendors and pedestrian area improvements.
The design of the four-story consulate and support buildings and campus is by Miller Hull Partnership, a leader in innovative green design, based in Seattle, Washington.
The contract to build the new facility has been awarded to B.L. Harbert, based in Birmingham, Alabama.
This firm has completed 157 U.S. diplomatic installations in the past 20 years, including a new consulate in Matamoros, Tamaulipas that opened last week after a three-year construction period. They are currently designing and constructing 59 other projects, including working consulates in Hermosillo, Sonora, and Merida, Yucatan. The company’s slogan is “Build Anything Anywhere” – all to U.S. specifications and standards.
Mark Terrebonne, B.L. Harbert’s international regional business director, said demolition of an existing building on the Guadalajara property would begin later that afternoon.
The U.S. construction company will bring down Mexican superintendent staff from Matamoros, Terrebonne said, but more than 600 positions, including engineers, laborers and office staff, will be hired locally.
He added that B.L. Harbert is committed to training local workers so when the job is over they have new skills to offer the domestic market.
Guadalajara is the second-largest U.S. visa processing center in the world and the new consulate will be able to double the number of applicants it serves to 2,400 per day at 57 consular windows. Around 150 parking spaces for visitors and a large pedestrian mall will easily accommodate the increase in numbers.
Most of the trees currently on the property will be left intact. Additional native plants and trees, requiring minimal irrigation, will also be added.
An on-site treatment plant will recycle all of the consulate’s wastewater, much of which will be used for irrigation and returned to the water table. Solar panels will generate 15 percent of the energy needed by the facility.
The State Department’s Art Embassies office will exhibit a variety of U.S. and Mexican artists in a number of formats, including paintings, photography, textile and sculpture.