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COLOMBIA - Real Estate & Construction

Roberto Moreno

President, Amarilo

Bio

Born in Philadelphia, United States in 1956, he studied at the University of Florida where he obtained degrees in engineering sciences, economics, and construction project management. In 1993 he founded Amarilo, a construction company recognized for leading the implementation of the “City within the City” concept, with which it seeks to offer communities more inclusive, safe and sustainable spaces, through the development of macro-projects.

"We have been developing a concept called "City within a City", involving large-scale urban developments."
TBY talks to Roberto Moreno, President of Amarilo, about community projects, sourcing capital, and the company’s approach to innovation.
What characterizes Amarillo’s commitment to community and housing development in Colombia?

We are project developers, not just a builder. We have been developing a concept called “City within a City”, involving large-scale urban developments. We visited Mexico with the Minister of Housing about ten years ago, in search of the optimum model to adopt. We then went into various cities in Colombia to develop large projects within them. Once you plan a good city and develop solid infrastructure, it is much easier to work with locals and create a great community. The community that lives and develops itself within their area, encourages their community to work together and have a higher quality of life.

What are some of the community projects you are working in Colombia?

We have been working with the homeowners’ associations that we create in these large developments. We already have eight homeowners’ associations within eight large projects in Colombia. The first was Ciudad Verde in Soacha. We created this homeowner association bottom up together with the community and together with this, we have a program called Programa de Acompañamiento Social (PAS), Social Accompaniment Program, that we implemented almost 19 years ago in order to help these communities to build key capabilities and strengthen their main opportunities as a community.
Almost two decades ago, we completed a modestly sized development called Alameda del Parque and started identifying numerous problems in creating communities. It was insecure and people were creating disturbances and not taking care of their shared spaces. Hence, we went in there with social workers and psychologists, and started working with them to instill a sense of mutual participation and belonging. With Amarilo, we haven’t just built something and then withdrawn, but rather, we always assure that we leave behind a functioning community that has our permanent support.

How does the Amarilo Group work to source capital for large-scale projects?

To be able to undertake these large-scale projects you need capital. You cannot do this with your signature alone, as we say in Spanish. We started a fund eight years ago called Yellowstone Capital Partners. Within the Amarilo group, there are three companies, Amarilo, Cimento and Yellowstone. Amarilo Colombia and the other Amarilo Panama were we also have a large-scale project. With Amarilo we are 95% active in Colombia with a presence in 17 cities and shortly we will be in 21 cities in total including Cúcuta, Antioquia, Zona Cafetera, and Cali. And Yellowstone is a private equity fund that we established to source institutional money for investment in these large-scale projects. It provides us strong corporate governance. We have also undertaken a joint venture with PSP, a pension fund from Montreal, which has invested USD150 million in seven projects. They later became shareholders of Amarilo holding 30% of the company. This new partner has provided us with a corporate umbrella involving all kinds of rigorous reporting in meeting corporate governance standards, which is very positive for any company.

What is Amarilo’s approach to innovation?

Is important to innovate permanently. For Amarilo, innovation is a way of working and because of that, we started working with Building Intelligent Modelling (BIM) years ago. We have all our projects within BIM, and we are designing 3D in the cloud. The architect, structural engineer, hydrological designer, electrical designer, and everybody else is working in real-time on the cloud 3D and the whole team coordinating in real-time, makes the process very efficient.

What are your priorities for 2023?

In 2023, we will have great news for the company and the country. We are a company of projects, so we first do pre-sales, and then we build the project and deliver the units to our clients. The lifecycle of a project takes between 24 to 40 months, starting from the opening of pre-sales until the last unit being delivered to a client. The good news for Amarilo is that we have reached a high volume of pre-sales during 2021 and 2022, reporting an increase of 17% with 13,000 units pre-sold for 2022. Due to this success in pre-sales, we are going to have a large volume of work over the coming three years. Our challenge is to be able to build and deliver the units we have already pre-sold. Also, to maintain sales this year in a challenging market, with high-interest rates, high inflation and higher costs of materials. We are committed to have the same bottom line, despite the circumstances, and maintain the confidence of the families that have put their trust in Amarilo and purchased their house with us.

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