FirstDibs by Amor Maclang • Published 24 May 2016
Tags: Real Estate

Urban renewal in modern Manila [FirstDibs in Real Estate]

[Originally published in Business Mirror, September 10, 2014, page E2] Weekends in the Makati CBD see two seemingly obscure community events happen within two of its villages, namely the Salcedo Saturday market and the Legazpi Sunday market. These weekly gatherings have some of the neighborhoods artisanal food makers, artists, craftsmen, and other people of a similar creative persuasion converge in open-air spaces to serve a growing crowd of foodies, enthusiasts and supporters.
This vibrant scene plays out every weekend like clockwork. And as early as 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, hundreds of people from all over the metro show up at Salcedo and Legazpi Park to have a good time.
These events have, in fact, become so popular that we’ve seen quite a number of other weekend markets sprouting in different areas of the city—all seemingly wanting to have the same community-driven atmosphere that so far seems to be unique to Legazpi and Salcedo.
While most of us weekend warriors look to these markets as sanctuaries of all things fair trade, organic and artsy, a few urban planners are now seeing the value in them and are beginning to realize that they are, in fact, part of an important stage in the urban renewal cycle.
Displacement in the Philippines
Most, if not all, of the brand-new developments in Metro Manila have one thing in common: displacement. These gated communities, with their omnipresent walls and thematic structures, stick out prominently within their respective landscapes. That’s because most are built upon foundations of cleared land; places where other structures once stood, which have since been demolished and cleared to make way for developers to build their vision, and version, of community.
Now, displacement has its pros and its cons. It has not become common practice in the Philippines without good reason. Poor urban planning, lack of desirable community spaces, etc., have pushed us all to seek escape, and developers have responded by flooding the market with living spaces that offer not just shelter, but mini versions of urban paradise.
And for real-estate developers, this method has also proven to be quite the effective wealth concentrator. Building a community from the ground up puts the developer on top of all services and gives them control over all utilities.
But displacement also has its setbacks. Aside from the obvious disruption of established communities, displacement also creates dissonance with the harmony of areas: aesthetically, socioeconomically and politically. The demolition of standing structures also raises issues concernig the destruction of heritage sites; something that has been a recurring issue as of late within the city of Manila.
While displacement is a much faster method in terms of developing an area, the speed, as we can see, comes at a price.
The urban renewal cycle
A new Saturday market has sprouted along one of old Manila streets. Initiated by a core group of artists, this Saturday market of original artwork, second-hand finds, and other curios seeks to bring much-needed attention back to one of our country’s first business and shopping districts. It seeks to somehow restore some of the former glory this road once held in spades by attracting a younger and hipper crowd.
It also comes, coincidentally, around the same time the construction of the district’s first BPO came to completion nearby.
Gentrification, as its definition states, is the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas. Gentrification is one part of the urban renewal cycle, and the cycle starts with the abandoned. In this case, the former business district in Manila. It is then followed by the alternative, which can be observed in the proliferation of ambulant vendors selling various items of fluctuating legal states. This is then eventually invaded by the art scene, which is what we are seeing now. Gentrification follows suit, and after, it all moves toward premium.
This is the urban renewal cycle, and its relevance and importance today is at an all-time high. The urban renewal cycle, as opposed to displacement, allows for the integration of old and new, the preservation of heritage and culture, and for the formation of rooted, albeit new, communities.
Development through displacement, unabated, will see our cities lose all identity and become the homogenized vision, and version, of community held by the powers that be. Preservation of our heritage, whether found in the glorious buildings or aging communities of our past, must be kept as a priority as we push for the development of our cities and our nation as a whole.
Amor Maclang is a risk and crisis mitigation expert, a brand architect and a communications strategist. She is co-founder of GeiserMaclang, an internationally awarded full-service marketing communications company that steers leading names in a diverse field of industries. For questions, you can email her at info@geisermaclangnetwork.com.