Madrid, 18th November 2020
I had had the opportunity to join the La Vaguada shopping center project some time before, through engineering, the licensing process and the subsequent development of the first execution projects, when the promoter company announced, in March 1981, the signing, to take over from the French managers who had been in charge of the project until then, of a young Spanish coach, Juan Thomas de Antonio. The objective of Spanishizing the project finally took face and eyes.
In a complicated political context, with doubts from the new municipal administration about the future of the center, Juan knew how to negotiate, hand in hand with the creative contribution of César Manrique, the definitive start of construction. He demonstrated talent and expertise, successfully navigating a very novel rental marketing process, and effectively piloting, with risky deadlines and tight budgets, his full development to reach the opening in October 1983. An extraordinary personal and professional experience for those who we were lucky to be there.
My admiration for his figure acquired another superior dimension when, once he had assumed the role and risk of a promoter, we saw him in the following years apply experience and relationships in his first steps, in Plaza de Andalucía, a clone of Vaguada on a reduced scale, and later in Parque Sur, repeating the Alcampo Galerías duo, to which he added a mini amusement park.
I remember him in those years of growth and consolidation of the Spanish Association of Shopping Centers, forging a visionary and unconventional personal profile, somewhat removed from the associative circuits. But knowing how to tenaciously build a very brilliant career that would lead him, after Parque Sur, to develop Bahía Sur, Parque Corredor, or Parque Astur. Centers in which he was able to very well balance innovative contributions in configuration and design with a respectful follow-up of the most canonical commercial schemes.
It was in 1996 when he accepted my invitation to be part of the Awards Jury of the AECC Congress held in Barcelona, with the admired José Antonio Arenas, José Ángel Rodrigo, Ramón Reñón and Carmen Almagro. The meetings and visits to candidates that we did in those weeks revealed to us, I think all of us, a friendly, sensible, and I would say kind, profile in the close and calm professional analysis of the projects of other promoters.
I like to remember Juan in this triple facet. That of an exciting and motivating orchestra director who in La Vaguada managed to extract the best of the teams that surround him. That of a determined businessman, who has a vision, a desire to promote, and who, acting accordingly, decides to assume all the risks that he entails. And, finally, that of a reflective man, with a close profile and thorough knowledge, which he showed us in those days of Jury.
I no longer had the opportunity to see him later, except on the occasion of the anniversaries of La Vaguada, where he continued to elicit respect and admiration from some human teams, the 80’s of the 80’s, that he had known so well to lead. And, already in his last months, when, immersed in physical suffering and ailments of all kinds, he knew how to live with an admirable resignation and positive spirit, which we have today as a life lesson for those of us who were fortunate to treat him.
Rest in peace