CITY SENSE By Paulo Alcazaren (The Philippine Star) – May 6, 2019 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — The world’s greatest cities are not a homogenous mass of buildings in nameless blocks receding into the horizon. The best ones are an engaging composition of districts—well-connected, walkable, and with a mix of uses that give each a distinctive character; that defines the experience of the place, its genius loci.
Such places evolve over time in western cities, but modern Philippine urban development dances to a much faster beat than the world has known. The rhythm of metropolitan Manila today is set by Bonifacio Global City, and most interestingly by newer sections of this premier urban site.
As recently as a decade ago, construction and development were centered in sections of Bonifacio Global City below 32nd street. That street was the main corridor that connected BGC with the rest of the metropolis via C-5 on the East and EDSA (via Kalayaan) on the West.
Just like New York City, this older district, the de facto downtown of BGC, is now congested. A flashy new district is quickly developing north of this, between 35th and 38th Streets, a cluster of about eight city blocks, known as Uptown Bonifacio and developed by the maverick Megaworld Corporation. But more than just flash, this new city borough is filling out quite well, with a balance of tall skyscrapers, variety-filled podiums, and street-level excitement.
I first noticed this section of Fort Bonifacio a few years ago as 9th Street became my favorite route out of the district from the crowded center. On the Eastern side of the street is a wide promenade, called the Uptown Parade, flanked by a 25,000-square meter urban lifestyle complex that houses what reportedly is the biggest nightlife destination in the country—The Palace—surrounded by an eclectic mix of specialty restaurants, bistros, cafes, and bars. It’s a cool place with a chill vibe, and not just for the millennial demographic.
This 10-meter wide pedestrian paradise runs the length of the district and reminds me of Orchard Road in Singapore crossed with Xintiandi, the premier shopping street in Shanghai. South of The Palace block is the five-level Uptown Mall that houses chic and trendy fashion shops, international luxury brands and even more dining destinations. The upper floor houses world-class leisure and entertainment amenities, with the podium topped with a green roof, complete with a chapel.
On the opposite side of both Uptown Mall and Uptown Parade is a row of luxury condominiums, three of which are complete and one on the fast track to completion. The four luxury residential towers include One Uptown Residence, Uptown Ritz, Uptown Parksuites, and Uptown Arts Residence.
One Uptown Residence is a 44-storey glass and aluminum tower with several green features, including a green wall and several sky gardens. Residents have exclusive direct access to Uptown Mall via an air-conditioned underground walkway. High-end retail outlets and gourmet restaurants are set to open at the ground floor. The condo has all the bells and whistles, a swimming pool complex with an in-pool lounge and wooden sundeck, a Zen garden, an alfresco lounge, gym and aerobics room, a yoga room, game room, basketball court, indoor and outdoor play areas, and multi-purpose function rooms.
Next door, the Uptown Ritz is even ritzier. The 45-storey “all-suites” residential condominium is a low-density residential development with as few as six units per floor. A bi-level podium amenity deck features an expansive 18-meter lap pool, a children’s play area with sunken lounges, a two-level nursery, a function room, along with a state-of-the-art fitness center and spa complex.
Taller than the first two, the Uptown Parksuites stands 50-storeys high and features a total of 35 recreational amenities and facilities. Each commodious unit features floor-to-ceiling windows, offering the best views of the Makati CBD and Fort Bonifacio skylines. There are sky lounges located on six different floors and its exclusive amenity deck on the 5th floor features a resort-quality swimming pool and spa complex.
In addition to its state-of-the-art fitness center (indoor and outdoor), there is a meditation area, a reflexology walk, a kid’s play area with sunken lounges, a two-level nursery, and even a hammock area for snoozing on weekend afternoons. The Uptown Parksuites also boasts of a podium with shops and restaurants, a business center, Laundromat, a reading nook, and multi-purpose halls.
The fourth tower is the Uptown Arts Residence, a 45-storey residential tower with nine levels of parking and first-class amenities comparable to its three skyscraper siblings.
This tower is guaranteed to be an award winner like the rest. At the 2016 Philippine Property Awards, the Uptown Ritz won for Best Residential Architectural Design. The project was also highly commended in the Best Luxury Condo Development category. That same year, and in the same awards event, Uptown Parksuites earned a nod as “highly commended” for its architectural design. The following year, One Uptown Residence won at the 2017 Philippines Property Awards for Best Architectural Design.
Uptown Bonifacio is not just a condominium complex. The district also hosts modern office towers, including the 20-storey Alliance Global Tower, the headquarters of the Alliance Global Group, Inc. companies. Megaworld Corporation itself holds office in the complex, and the district’s towers are attracting even more companies to add to the top BPO operations already there.
These office towers, the condominiums, and in fact the whole Uptown Bonifacio development, is strategically located beside the proposed Skytrain Uptown Station—a monorail project of Megaworld’s sister company Infracorp meant to connect Fort Bonifacio to MRT Guadalupe Station in Makati City. A few blocks away will be the planned Kalayaan Station of the proposed Mega Manila Subway project.
The planned monorail is a P3.3-billion project that will utilize an automated cable-propelled monorail technology. The system is projected to reduce the travel time from Fort Bonifacio to MRT Guadalupe Makati to only five minutes.
Uptown Bonifacio is a complete urban district, with its own identity, architectural character, landscape theme, and urban design verve. It is physically well-connected to the rest of the city via its wide 9th street promenade, a parade that is pleasant during the day and pulsates with life after hours, along with the planned rail connections above and below ground. The place offers a walkable lifestyle complex that truly lives up to the goal of an integrated live-work-play concept, a signature of all Megaworld’s developments.
Cities may have their downtowns, but they always level up with their uptowns. Uptown Bonifacio is a cut above the rest, but it is not resting on its laurels, with more in store as its beat goes on.