“The problem with Villahermosa is that it was built for the car,” Mr. Alí said. “We’re trying to change that now by encouraging pedestrian culture and building or improving existing urban projects that eliminate traffic and ultimately put more eyes on the street” to discourage crime.
“We recognize that it’s time to link people back to their parks and public spaces,” Mr. Alí added.
Phase 1 of Mr. Norten’s three-phase master plan for Villahermosa opened in September. The Museo Elevado de Villahermosa, or Musevi, an elevated museum and food court, spans the traffic-jammed Paséo Tabasco highway to link the Tomás Garrido Canabal Park, in the heart of the city, with a large lagoon, the Laguna de Las Illusiones and the lake Vaso Cencalli.
An elegant construction of concrete, suspension cables and perforated white metal, Musevi also lets people walk between Villahermosa’s recently restored historic center and its commercial and residential districts. A concrete amphitheater, an orchid house with 120 species and more than 2,000 native plants were also added to the park.
But perhaps the biggest environmental turnaround for Villahermosa, in the first phase of the plan, “is a cleaned-up water supply,” said Mohammad Tareque, finance secretary for the city. “Before we installed a $2 million sewage filtration system in neighboring hillside communities, unregulated runoff left our city’s lagoons and ponds polluted and lifeless.”
Since the sewage system was put into operation in 2010, alligators, water fowl and more than a dozen species of fish have repopulated Villahermosa’s urban wetlands — particularly the lake Vaso Cencalli, where a $4.5 million dollar musical fountain, said to help aerate the murky water, was installed in November last year by WET Design, the masterminds behind the Bellagio Hotel’s fountains in Las Vegas.