Italian investors presented to mayor María Fritz Sierra their plans to transform Casona Santa Cecilia, a fading architectural jewel on Avenida Colón, into a 124-room hotel.
The architecture will be preserved inside and out, said Umberto Pinazzi, president of Grupo Meca, which owns the Presidente Intercontinental Villa Mercedes hotel next door. The name of the new hotel was not disclosed.
“We want to preserve the architectural details to make it more attractive to tourists who visit it during their stay. It will be in the back of the house where the 124 new rooms will be built,” Pinazzi said.
The project adds yet more hotel rooms to the city. Already, Mérida is expected to have another 1,500 new hotel rooms in the coming months, mostly stimulated by the new convention center a block away. By the end of the year, the city is expected to surpass 10,000 rooms, according to one calculation.
This project stands out for being the first in recent memory that integrated a casona into its architecture, as Hotel Mérida or the Hotel Casa del Balam downtown had done decades ago. The Presidente next door, as well, is built around a historic mansion, and the oldest corner of the Fiesta Americana further down the street was a private club. Grupo Meca owns two other hotels, both in Chiapas, and also runs a travel agency.
The mayor explained to the directors that the current administration has been promoting Mérida to 730 travel agents in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Querétaro and Miami.
“With the support of the hotel sector, we invited over 160 travel agents from Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey for four days, in order to make them experts in promoting Yucatán,” she said.
According to Aref Karam Espósitos, director of Urban Development, the house of Santa Cecilia, between Calle 60 and 62, is not listed as a Historical Monument, although it is in an area of city Historical Monuments by federal decree of 1982.
Since 2004, the neighborhood in which this architectural jewel is located was declared a Cultural Heritage Area of the Municipality of Mérida.
“The house has great value for its Neoclassical Porfirian architectural features. Its finishes and details in the interiors are practically intact,” said Karam Espósitos.
The house was in the newspapers two years ago under grim circumstances. An elderly couple living in the house was found slain, and surveillance video pointed to an employee of the Intercontinental next door as a suspect.