Envigado, Colombia

Medellin’s Little Neighbor Is Full Of Charm

In search of an unusual dining experience on a recent Saturday evening, I stood on the corner just a block from the main avenue and looked down the lush, tree-lined street. In this hidden-away corner of town, there were too many choices. Six restaurants lay behind me, along the way back to the avenue. And, to my left, seven more hid among the trees in this cool, relaxing setting.

Just as I prepared to do the mental equivalent of a coin-toss, I heard the unmistakable guitar and baseline of Compay Segundo’s Chan Chan—performed by Buena Vista Social Club—coming from a Cuban restaurant whose elderly owner was just opening his doors for business. Looking forward to a traditional mojito and a large portion of the special Cuban dish Ropa Vieja, I went in and took my seat.

The neighborhood I’m exploring is called Barrio Jardines, in the city of Envigado, Colombia. Its new-and-already-popular restaurant zone consists of just a few tree-lined streets, located between Calle 30 and 31 Sur, on Carrera 44a, only a block west of the main thoroughfare, Avenida El Poblado.

The first, lone restaurant in this area was El Trifásico, in business more than 30 years. But this small street began to change to a bona-fide destination during the past two years, when entrepreneur Ricardo Restrepo—along with a number of associates—opened several more restaurants and formed the Corporacion Jardines, a company dedicated to the promotion and development of this tiny corner of Envigado.

His plan worked, as evidenced by the number of people who now make their way here each day. They include a few like me who wander over from nearby El Poblado. But you’ll also find the likes of President Juan Manuel Santos who lunched here not long ago.

This mini-sector is symbolic of how Envigado is coming into the limelight as a popular residential option for expats and Colombians alike.

The municipality of Envigado lies adjacent to Medellin’s long-trendy El Poblado on the south side. And while El Poblado is a neighborhood of Medelli­n, it’s not part of Medellin at all… but rather a separate town within the Medellin metro area.

Envigado is not only separate administratively, but it has a character of its own. Instead of the upscale feel of El Poblado, Envigado seems more like a comfortable, well-maintained, and older-fashioned Latin American city. As I strolled its quiet, tree-lined streets, I found it had a distinctive “neighborly” or “community” feel. The neighborhoods of neat, one- and two-story homes reminded me in many ways of the nicer sections of Montevideo, Uruguay.

The town is built around its attractive, well-kept and shady town square, overlooked by the impressive Santa Gertrudis Catholic church. On my most recent visit, I found a bustling and colorful Saturday market in full swing in the brilliant sunshine.

But not far away, standing on the corner of Diagonal 32B and Transversal 34 Sur, I could look all directions and see quiet, tree-lined streets with one- and two-story homes—with only the occasional low-rise apartment building here and there.

You’ll get the same feeling from Diagonal 33, a nice residential street, divided by planters filled with tropical flowers and trees.

So, while Envigado has a few neighborhoods of high-rises reminiscent of El Poblado, it also offers a generous quantity of these quiet neighborhoods of single-family homes, which can be difficult to find in El Poblado.

Envigado is neither undiscovered nor a budget destination. But it’s a good value, for a pleasant, neighborly living environment with a smaller town feel.

The average cost per square meter (of the properties I surveyed) was US$1,054—about 30% less than El Poblado. Really, though, you can’t compare the two. Medellin’s El Poblado is a world-renowned, high-end destination, while Envigado is a lesser-known, charming, Latin American city with more of a Latin American feel and character.

You can find a large, single home in a nice area here for well under US$200,000. I saw a 2,152-square-foot house in a gated community with three bedrooms, three baths, a terrace, and maid’s quarters. The asking price is US$192,000 at today’s exchange.

Envigado also has a number of new, modern condos at good prices.

In the Lomo del Escobero neighborhood, I found a three-bedroom, three-bath apartment with 1,054 square feet of living area. The property includes a garage space and maid’s quarters, for an asking price of U$103,800.

A similar bargain is on the market in the Las Vegas area of Envigado. It’s 1,065 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths, for an asking price of US$93,400.

The best view we saw was from a 1,000-square-foot apartment in the Loma Del Esmeralda neighborhood. You can see miles of lush, green mountains from the living room of this three-bedroom, two-bath property. The building offers a pool and gym for an asking price of US$132,300.

In the El Portal neighborhood, close to a popular restaurant district, a 1,549-square-foot apartment has four bedrooms, two baths, a library, and maid’s quarters. The asking price is US$137,500.

And, back in the charming Barrio Jardines area—not far from the new restaurant district where we began—there’s a 1,334-square-foot apartment on the market with three bedrooms, three baths, and maid’s quarters. With lots of attractive woodwork throughout, the asking price is US$150,500.

For information on real estate in Envigado, contact Rich Holman of First American Realty Medellin: Rich@firstamericanrealtymedellin.com. He has a staff of 100% bilingual agents and has helped many a reader find his home in the Medelli­n metro area.

If you plan to rent your property while out of town, Envigado won’t produce the high rental returns or occupancies that you’ll see in Medellin’s El Poblado. I’d recommend Envigado for those who are more concerned about being part of the community and stick to El Poblado if rental income is your priority.

Envigado is best suited to expats who want to be part of a friendly, walkable community with all of the amenities. It doesn’t have El Poblado’s elegant reputation, but you’ll enjoy a homier feel and a lower cost of living.

Lee Harrison

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