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Experts Predict Spike In Migration From San Diego To Tijuana

Photo caption: The ocean is seen in Tijuana, October 29, 2013.

Photo credit: Mario Chavez / Flickr

The ocean is seen in Tijuana, October 29, 2013.

San Diego has long been a popular place for Mexican immigrants to make their home. But real estate experts predict Tijuana will develop a large community of expatriates from the north.

“Each day I see more and more people from San Diego turning to Tijuana," said César Leal Partida, director of business development for Seica, a Mexican construction company based in Tijuana. "Before, I think they looked at us as not a nice part."

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Business leaders from the U.S. and Mexico discuss the future of real estate, April 7, 2016.

At a conference held in San Diego on the future of real estate in the cross-border region, business leaders from the U.S. and Mexico are predicting a higher number of Americans moving to Tijuana.

Leal was one of dozens of business leaders who attended the "The Future of U.S./Mexico Real Estate" conference at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina on Thursday. Among other topics, speakers discussed a predicted spike in Americans moving to Tijuana.

They said the cheaper cost of living in Mexico and the comparatively low unit prices are already inspiring numerous San Diegans to move south of the border.

"When they see what they can get — the quality of construction they can get, the quality of their building, the quality of life — they're like, 'Wow, and still I'm a 20-minute drive from downtown San Diego,'" Leal said.

He said San Diegans who move to Tijuana often continue working north of the border, which they cross using the trusted traveler program called Sentri. According to Leal, this new community is solidifying the San Diego-Tijuana identity as a region of literally cross-border citizens. He said he considers himself one of them.

"I don’t live in Tijuana; I live in Tijuana and San Diego," he said.

Leal's company is behind Mexico’s second LEED certified building in Tijuana: VIA Corporativo, a skyscraper that has attracted unprecedented interest from foreign food lovers because it houses Misión 19, the city's most famous restaurant. Leal said the rising food scene — both street food and fine dining — is helping Tijuana capture the attention of foreigners.

Photo credit: VIA Corporativo

This undated photo shows VIA Corporativo, a skyscraper in Tijuana.

Near VIA Corporativo, Seica is developing a large Tijuana condominium project called Arboleda Residencial, which Leal said is already luring American buyers.

Speakers at the real estate conference noted that Tijuana has long been a destination for migrants from lower-income areas of Central America and southern Mexico. But they said the city is starting to appeal to Americans.

Investments in Tijuana are also shifting from low-wage, low-skill industries to those that are higher-profile and higher-value, partly thanks to cross-border collaboration, said Cristina Hermosillo, president of Tijuana's Economic Development Corporation, which helped organize the real estate conference.

She said the conference is meant to provide a platform for industry leaders from both sides of the border to work together on the evolution of the region.

"We feel that putting together both of our strengths, we can actually market our region more efficiently as a globalized mega-region that integrates talent, innovation, infrastructure and advanced manufacturing," Hermosillo said.

Leal agreed, noting that Tijuana has a surplus of engineers graduating from university while San Diego has a deficit. He said cross-border companies and residents can turn local idiosyncrasies into regional strengths.

He recalled going to school in Monterrey, Mexico and encountering surprise when he told his friends he was moving back to his home town of Tijuana, a smaller city.

"They said, 'Why would you? Monterrey is bigger than Tijuana,'" Leal said. "And I said, 'Yeah, if you compare Tijuana with Monterrey, I agree. It's bigger and more important, whatever you want to call it. But if you put together Tijuana and San Diego, we burn Monterrey easily.'"

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