Bonifacio Global City: A city that works, a city with a soul

August 18, 2008

By Ching M. Alano

It’s the city you’ve always fantasized about. A place where you can live, work, and play. And yes, also a place where you can laugh, love, and live your passions to the fullest. Your fantasy just came true with Bonifacio Global City (BGC), a city that works, a city with a soul.

Think of coming home to a place where everything runs efficiently — the buses work, people can walk around, and  everything you need is in one place. There’s something to nourish the body, nurture the soul and, yes, feed the passion. Think of a city where passion and functionality mix, thus maximizing the productivity and creative potential of its residents.

It was passion that compelled the forward-looking people behind the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC) to dream of a city with a soul and to make it happen with Bonifacio Global City.  After all, FBDC has the expertise and track record of the country’s most reputable names in real estate development, Ayala Land and Evergreen Holdings of the Campos Group. Within the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is  a cosmopolis of residential areas, offices, commercial blocks, and parks on all of 240 hectares of prime property in Taguig, without a doubt today’s fastest-growing city that’s only minutes away from the business hubs of Makati and Ortigas Centers.

FBDC’s vision, however, was not simply that of a development project of concrete-and-steel. They wanted a place that’s got parks, trees, and lots of greens — an oasis amid the metropolis’s asphalt jungle. They wanted a place where the air is fresh and clean. They wanted a high-quality environment that’s conducive to living, working, creating, recreating, procreating, and raising a family. They wanted to create a premier business district unlike any other that celebrates creativity and the sweet successes of both work and play — where every piece of property is a hop or two away from a main thoroughfare or a patch of sprawling greenery.

Imagine a network of pedestrian-friendly roads, walkways, and plazas, enhanced by landscaping, destination retail establishments, and public art. At BGC, every piece of property is designed to give residents the quality of life they richly deserve. And to make that possible in your exclusive home/office/leisure address in the city, everything you need is at your fingertips. High-tech offices, bustling retail outlets, international schools, a five-star hospital, and banks are just a few steps away from your doorstep. What more can a city denizen possibly ask for?

“These are very exciting times for us,” says the visibly elated Meean Bautista-Dy, executive vice president of FBDC, “We’re at the stage where we see real communities growing. We have a growing residential population where you see a lot of young couples, young families finding a home in BGC.”   Meean hastens to add, “We also see a growing community of professionals as we see more and more offices finding a home in BGC. These are professionals of a slightly different mold, slightly different mentality who enjoy the open space, the  promenade and the amenities and conveniences offered by the city.  And we have a growing community of people who are passionate about their interests and hobbies — they, too, have found a home for their creative expression in BGC.  We see BGC evolving into a city that is not only dynamic but also culturally diverse and innovative.”

Given this kind of people and community that is attracted to BGC, the city must be able to complement the people’s forward-looking mindsets.  And the best way to showcase this dynamism is a piece of mixed-use development that runs from Market! Market! to a kilometer stretch of pedestrian retail and office promenade called Bonifacio High Street. While Market! Market! is a shopping mecca offering a thousand and one finds in retail, food, and entertainment, Bonifacio High Street (BHS), which starts at Serendra, is a 40-meter-wide and one-kilometer-long  development of popular retail and office establishments punctuated with public art and lots and lots of open space .   Serendra is a 12-hectare residential condominium project featuring one-of-a-kind shops and fine restaurants that offer slightly different cuisines from French to Spanish, Italian, Thai, and Filipino.

“Bonifacio High Street has helped define what BGC is all about — a concrete example of a place where you can live, work, and play,” Meean points out. “The original idea behind BGC was to create another business district, another home for the growing business community in the country. Perhaps it is also designed in such a way as to attract a slightly different type of professionals, different types of companies, as you can tell from our tagline ‘home of passionate minds.’ Really, this is a place that excites creativity, a different way of thinking. It’s a place that allows you to be yourself, to find people of common interests.”

The underlying objective was to create a business district with a different flavor. Meean stresses, “In the master plan, we really thought of how people would live here, work here, and play here all at the same time and so we designed a mixed-use development with ample space for play and recreation.  We had to think about not just a space for work, which is obviously very important and at the heart of it all, but also the residential and retail components. This is reflected in the mix that is deliberately delivered,  the physical network that allows you to move around easily, the open space that connects you to the outdoors despite your being in the heart of the city.”

With their passion for perfection, there are some things that are fundamental to Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation: creating a city that works, in providing a sense of place, and in evolving a city with a soul.  Meean elaborates on these three points:

A city that works. “There is a hardware side as well as a software side to this — the hardware being the physical plans and infrastructure of the city  and the software is how everything is being managed and what experience is being delivered.  For example, the grid system we developed for our road network allows for a more intuitive, easier-to-follow system, and much faster navigation.  There is the deliberate choice of low-emission buses for the expanding bus fleet within the city which helps maintain the clean-air environment we want for BGC.  The professional estate management also ensures that rules are followed, development is disciplined, and the original vision is adhered to.”

Sense of place. “Once you enter BGC, you know you’re in a different place, what with a lot of the iconic building designs, the abundance of open space, the innovative outdoor art installation, the engaging  activities and events, and the relaxed atmosphere being experienced now among the growing professionals and residents, making BGC a totally refreshing, new city development. For instance, Bonifacio High Street will provide you a different sense of place. BHS is perhaps unique in the country, having as much open space as you can use and boasting of retail establishments (a delightful mix of fashion, health, beauty, sports, technology, all the way to the basics) on the ground floor and offices on the second floor. There’s as much open space you can actually experience, view, and enjoy visually.”

City with a soul. “It’s like going to other cities elsewhere and as you see the iconic structures, you know you’re in that city. That’s probably the hardware side of it. The software side is that there are programs at BGC that foster the arts as well as the different passions in life. Aside from the events that occasionally draw big crowds, there is a regular arts program in the city. While this may have started with iconic art piece installations, BGC is currently home to bikers, runners, fashionistas, even little girls from the community who take ballet classes here!”

This summer, BGC plays hosts to a number of exciting events that revolve around the passions of play, music, and art among the people who live, work and play in the City.  What started as one event with the fun run four years ago, Passion Fest has now evolved to embrace interests not only on play but also on art and music (see related story on Page 8).

So, what’s your passion?
“This summer, we will have events that you probably haven’t seen in the country,” Meean notes. “This is in line with BGC being innovative, a place where you find new dreams, learn new interests, meet people of like minds. What we’re  trying to attract is a community, of both professionals and individuals, who really wants to pursue a passion, be it their work or some other hobby they might have. Here, they can grow their interests, improve their skills in an environment that allows them to do just that.”

Actually, BGC, which began construction in 1995, is just in its early teens. “We still have a long way to go,” says Meean, “but there’s enough going, there’s substantial construction, the community is growing.” At BHS alone, which is the heart of this city, there is so much going on and even more that is yet to come. “What you see now is only half of BHS,” Meean reveals as this writer revels in the sights around Bonifacio High Street one frenetic afternoon. “With the very good acceptance of BHS by the public, we’re looking forward to expanding it and offering more to the BGC community. The idea is for BHS to be a one-kilometer stretch of promenade. We’re only halfway there. We’re currently planning the second half of BHS.”
Among the famous tenants of BHS are Nike, Fully Booked, and The Spa. Then there are its restaurant tenants — notably coffee shops like Bo’s Coffee, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Figaro, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Starbucks where, on some balmy afternoons, you’ll see a bevy of java hounds getting their caffeine fix and nursing their cups of coffee while sharing animated conversation out in the open air without a care in the world.

So, what else is brewing at BHS?

“We will have more facilities for the outdoor type of sports — running, biking, Frisbee — so residents can come out and do their sports at their own pace and with all the outdoor space they need,” Meean shares.

Also soon to open at Bonifacio High Street are the retail outlets Jump, Verzio, The Stockmarket, Olivers, Aldo Accessories, Gap, and Dimensione.  Coming soon to Serendra are The Healthy Kitchen, Cafe Via Mare, and Printed Matter.

Another coming attraction is the Mind Museum which will be at the western end of Bonifacio High Street, which people certainly would want to visit (see related story on Page 4). In fact, the Mind Museum will undoubtedly become a main attraction of the BGC community when it opens its doors to the public in the next few years.

As BGC continues to grow, so does its community. And of vital importance to BGC is “pedestrianization.” Says Meean, “BHS is an embodiment of that. In fact, this is a main avenue for us. Its 40-meter-wide park is nearly as wide as Ayala Avenue. As you can see, cars are not allowed here. So here along BHS, it’s all about letting your children run around, feeding your pets, playing and interacting with the art pieces – experiencing them, not just looking at them.”

And yes, people can sit on the grass if they so wish – in fact, it is encouraged. The workaholic Meean chooses a nice spot on the grass, opens her laptop, and tells us, “You can sit on the grass, work on your laptop, do your brainstorming with your team outside and yes, you can say it was a productive day!”

Indeed, with 45 percent of land dedicated to open space, BGC is pushing for a pedestrian-friendly environment with a passion. Meean asserts, “We’re very disciplined in terms of the densification of the place and we’re very particular with our landscape.”  Residents especially appreciate the activity park that’s dedicated to them. “Here, they can walk, bring their pets around,” Meean elaborates. “And we’ll be putting up jogging paths around BGC where people are safe to run.”

Just as important as the pedestrianization of BGC is the public transportation and mobility within the City. There’s a shuttle service that links Bonifacio Global City and Metro Manila’s Light Rail Transit (LRT). “Furthermore,  the Bonifacio Transportation Corporation recently acquired six brand-new Mercedes Benz buses to add to its 17 existing buses,” Meean informs us. “They’re very low-emission diesel buses that are environment-friendly. We’re the first city operator in Metro Manila to use this kind of bus, which can accommodate 70 passengers for a one-way ticket that only costs a minimal fee. ”

But of course, BGC is also not lacking in outdoor events like concerts.  It  has played host to international concert artists like the bootylicious Beyonce and the multi-Grammy awardee Christina Aguilera.

Running a city as humongous as BGC is an equally humongous job. All its utilities are provided through underground infrastructure. Its underground drainage facilities can accommodate 2.2 million liters of water so flooding is no problem. There’s uninterrupted electrical supply from Meralco via underground lines. Its fiber optic cable network supports a wide range of telephone, video, and data applications. It’s got its own water and sewage system run by the Bonifacio Water Corporation and operating 24/7. And no need to worry because security is top priority at BGC. There are roving guards on duty round-the-clock. There are security posts all over  Bonifacio Global City, and police ready to assist are just a dial away.

Ah, living in the city with its daily rat race has never been this worry- and hassle-free! Now, city folks can have more time for things that truly matter. They now have more time to indulge in their passions.

About time, don’t you think?

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