Monday, January 02, 2006
Ortigas Center: Towards a Transit-Oriented City?
(Picture 1 shows Ortigas Center at night while Picture 2 shows the proposed covered walk along Edsa Avenue under the new 200 million-peso redevelopment plan. All pictures provided by Ortigas & Company).
The Ortigas & Company announced last week that the company is pursuing a P200 million redevelopment program of the 100-hectare Ortigas Center to raise property values and upgrade its status as a “premiere” business district of Metro Manila at par with Makati.
In an interview with media representatives, Rex Drilon, chief operating officer of the Ortigas and Company, said they had hired the services of the Palafox and Associates to prepare a master plan to transform Ortigas Center into “transport-oriented, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use” business center.
The plan, Drilon said translates to the construction of elevated walkways; appropriate signages based on international standards; improved streetscapes with wider sidewalks, street greens, railings, and better lamp posts; and covered ground-level walkways. Mimicking Los Angeles, the plan would also involve the construction of five 60-foot pylons to serve as markers for the five major entrances to the Ortigas Center.
The elevated walkway is intended to facilitate mobility of people, particularly pedestrians, from the public transport systems like the Metro Rail Transit, buses and jeepneys stops towards the major shopping centers, hotels, schools, and offices within the business district.
According to Drilon, Bayani Fernando, the chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the local governments of Pasig City, Mandaluyong, and Quezon City have already approved the master plan “in principle.” Nevertheless, Drilon expects all the projects to be completed within five years.
Drilon admitted that the master plan is his company’s strategy for Ortigas Center to catch up with Makati central business district and other emerging business centers in the metropolis.
“Ortigas Center has lagged behind Makati in terms of desirability as a business district [as manifested by] lower land values, lower rental rates, and lower occupancy rates,” said Drilon. “Makati has been redeveloping and new business business districts are threatening to overtake Ortigas Center—Filinvest Corporate City, Madrigal Business Park, Rockwell, Eastwood City, Araneta Center, among others.”
Drilon said land values in Ortigas is only about P75,000 per square meter while a prime land in Makati would now costs as high as P120,000 per square meter.
In an earlier interview with Claro Cordero, property analyst of the Leechiu and Associates, vacancy rate in Makati is just 5 percent as against Ortigas 10 percent or higher.
Part of the original 4,000 “Mandaloyon estate” that were obtained by the Ortigas family from the friars, the Ortigas Center was envisioned as a “first class commercial and business complex.” The center currently houses big local and international institutions including the Philippine Stock Exchange, San Miguel Corporation, Shoemart, Robinsons Malls, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. A lot of call centers companies have set-up operations in the area due to its central location.
The redevelopment of Ortigas Center, Drilon said, has recently become more urgent as lot owners have started to complain about traffic congestion, ugly and unfinished structures, dug-up or bad roads, and “pedestrian unfriendliness.”
Costing P200 million, the redevelopment program would be broken down as follows: elevated walkway (P27.4 million), pylons at entrances (P3.4 million), streetscape (P31.54 million), waiting sheds (P7.76 million), lamp posts (P114.46 million), signages and others (P1.5 million). Drilon said the total amount amount is actually PP186 million but they are reserving P14 million for other costs.
Drilon said that his company and the Ortigas Center Association are currently discussing how the P200 million project cost would be shared but they are hoping that LGUs will shoulder most of the costs. And while this process is on-going, Ortigas and Company, Drilon stressed, has allocated about P27 million from its own funds to jumpstart the construction of the five pylons at five several sites, namely the ADB Avenue-Ortigas Avenue extension, Ortigas Jr. Avenue-Ortigas Avene Intersection, Doña Juliana Vargas-Meralco Intersection, San Miguel Avenue-Shaw Boulevard Intersection, and the St. Francis Street-Shaw Boulevard Intersection.
(I owe this post to Rex Drilon, chief operating officer of Ortigas & Company. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog criticizing Ortigas Center as a “cruel city” for its lack of facilities for pedestrians. Two days after, Mr. Drilon invited me to a pre-New Year briefing re Ortigas Center’s newly approved “master plan” designed to address complaints about traffic congestion, and pedestrian-unfriendliness. The story above is the result of that briefing.)