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A hidden Costco sits beneath this huge public park

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Like any of the other 800 Costco big-box stores around the world, the new Costco in the Santa Fe district of Mexico City is gigantic. Its warehouse-like shopping area and three-story parking structure add up to more than 524,000 square feet of real estate. But looking at it from the outside, it’s almost hard to see that a megastore behemoth is even there at all. Unlike most of those other Costcos in the world, this one has been designed to conceal itself underneath a massive public park.

[Photo: Maria Chapa Photography/courtesy MG2]

Covering the store’s roof, parking garage, and loading bays are large park and garden areas, including a soccer field and other sports courts, walking paths, a skate park for children, and a massive green roof.

[Photo: Omar Franco/courtesy MG2]

“The intent for this building was to be hidden and merge with the natural landscape,” says Maribel Barba, a project manager for the global architecture and design firm MG2, which designed the store.

[Photo: Maria Chapa Photography/courtesy MG2]

Though some other locations in the retailer’s portfolio have taken interesting design approaches, from adaptive reuse of older buildings to the preservation of nearby natural features, the Santa Fe store may have Costco’s most adventurous design. It’s located in a growing financial district, with a modern skyline and a booming population, and is directly adjacent to another large new public park, Parque La Mexicana. Built on the site of a former sand quarry that later became a landfill, the 50-acre park opened in 2017, and includes several commercial components like restaurants and stores that fund its maintenance and operations. And the Costco store is one of them. Barba says that instead of just plopping a typical warehouse next to a verdant park full of gardens and lakes, the design was altered to make the roof of the store a part of the open space. “Costco essentially became an extension of the park,” she says.

[Photo: Maria Chapa Photography/courtesy MG2]

Over the store itself is a green roof, the largest element of the design, which is off limits to human use. Barba says the space has 10 species of native plants that creates a large sanctuary for birds, bees, and insects. The parking garage is topped with a large soccer field, two basketball courts, and a beach volleyball court. On the edge of the store that connects to the broader park, walking paths and the children’s skating area create a transitional space between the store roof and the park, while covering up the utilitarian loading area below. Designed specifically to blend into the groundscape, the store hides beneath walkways in the skatepark that seamlessly blend the rooftop and the greater park.

[Photo: Maria Chapa Photography/courtesy MG2]

In addition to the extra park space the building affords, it’s playing a role in helping offset the chronic water shortages the city faces. An on-site wastewater treatment facility creates greywater that can be reused to flush toilets and urinals. And a water catchment system on the half-million acre building collects and stores stormwater, pumping it back to the broader park for use in irrigation and filling several recreational lakes and fountains. Revenue from the store and other commercial activities in the park fund the maintenance of these and other park facilities. Costco funds the maintenance of the green roof.

Barba, who has worked on several Costco store designs, says this one took a unique approach, but one that could easily be replicated in other urban settings. The store opened last November, with the skatepark following this past June, and the sports fields earlier this week. Barba says the rooftop park was an immediate hit. “It’s been very active,” she says. “People were even trying to get in before it was open.”

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