Abstract The city of Guayaquil, the main port of Ecuador, has experienced one of the most interesting processes of urban development in the Latin American context over the last 15years. Over three decades from the 1960s to the 1990s, inefficient administrations, political instability and corruption led the city to a state of chaos and alarming deterioration. The city lost its national influence in the political and cultural dynamics of the country. Within this context, in 1992 a new model of development was implemented, using in its main phase a major development project as a catalyst for urban change. As a result, the city’s downtown was reshaped, historic neighbourhoods and wholesale markets rebuilt, and massive transport improvements implemented. In 2004, Guayaquil was even named the best managed city in Latin America by the United Nations Development Program. Nevertheless, some outcomes, especially regarding social issues, are still controversial. This profile focuses on describing the management model, the necessary conditions for its implementation, and its outcomes, along with a critical review of this model’s challenges and limitations in contributing to more equitable and sustainable urban development for the city as a whole.