27 years has passed (at the time of this writing) since development began on the huge parcel of land that used to be part of the military complex of Fort Bonifacio. And today, the area that we now know as Bonifacio Global City (BGC) has evolved rapidly to become one of the most bustling developments in Metro Manila.
With so many skyscrapers in this hyper-urban neighborhood, with more developments yet to rise as we speak, it is easy for one to get lost and confounded by the high towers of steel and glass. And it does not help that the sight of these skyscrapers give off an atmosphere that lacks warmth and life, despite the show of progress they give off.
However, there are some areas in BGC that help provide warmth, life, and especially character to this district in some way. The Urban Roamer has spotlighted some of these spots in the past like the BGC Arts Center, Terra 28th, and Track 30th. But now, it’s time to spotlight the most prominent of these areas, the area between 28th and 30th Streets, which this roamer calls the BGC Central.
Firstly, it’s important to note that in the original plans for Bonifacio Global City, the area that is BGC Central today did not exist. In fact, the original layout of BGC was mostly radial, with a rotonda plaza at the middle that would have served as the centerpiece of the development, somewhat similar to the Quezon Memorial Circle. This would change when Metro Pacific, the then-majority of owners of BGC’s developer, Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation, decided to sell their stake in 2003 due to financial difficulties at that time. True enough, that stake’s eventual buyers, Ayala Land and Evergreen Holdings (owned by the Campos family behind Unilab and Greenfield District) had other plans in mind.
For one, the circular layout was abandoned as it was deemed difficult to develop. This is most apparent especially the eastern part in favor of residential and commercial developments that we now know today as Serendra and Market Market respectively. In relation to this, the planned avenue that would have been placed in the middle of the development (interruped only by the rotonda plaza) and the rotonda plaza itself were removed even though there was a layout already. Instead the new developers decided to redevelop it into a pedestrian, open-space boulevard filled with mostly retail spaces and some office spaces as well. This would be the genesis of what would become Bonifacio High Street.
Bonifacio High Street opens
By the time it opened to the public in 2007, Bonifacio High Street was met with much fanfare, primarily because it offered something new for the metropolis’ shopping landscape. Until then, the retail scene was pretty much dominated by enclosed shopping mall buildings that were derided by critics as soulless box buildings. Bonifacio High Street was a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively as people get to shop, dine, and have fun while enjoying the view of the sky and the green surroundings and fountains.
While Bonifacio High Street is home to many shops and restaurants, four establishments stand out as far as prominence and legacy is concerned. From east to west, there’s Fully Booked, one of the first and oldest establishments in the area which is a bibliophile’s haven. (or was, considering its book collection is not as extensive as it used to) There’s also Bench with what is probably the largest store they have in the country and Krispy Kreme, another longtime locator since 2007 and whose location is also its first branch in the country.
But perhaps the most prominent feature, or should I say features, of this retail district are the art installations found all over the place. Of course, the ones that get the most notice are the ones in the open area in the middle of Bonifacio High Street like the blue 2-D teddy bear titled “There Is No Such Thing As Eternal Joy” by Conrado Velasco, a boulder suspended in the air by curved stainless steel tubes and spouts water (titled “Specific Gravity” by Reg Yuson), the orange floor chimes by Reg Yuson called Presence, the twisted bright green pipes that is used as a playful communications tool like a walkie talkie (another Yuson work entitled “Hearsay”), and the cantilevered structure by Yuson and Ronald Achacoso called “Bearable Lightness.”
That’s not even counting the artworks found above the passageways and the graffiti found across High Street, though they came much later.
While there were already some development that were being built already before the idea of a Bonifacio High Street was realized, it was Bonifacio High Street that paved the way for what Bonifacio Global City would become. Indeed, High Street kickstarted the massive development BGC has been experiencing for the more than 10 years at this point. One don’t have to look far to see how it influenced the development of its surroundings.
The structures around High Street
The success and growth of Bonifacio High Street has brought about some interesting developments of the surrounding areas from up north along 28th Street up to 30th Street in the south. Starting from the east, these are the notable landmarks at BGC Central near High Street:
Seda Hotel BGC (30th Street corner 11th Avenue) – Opened in December 2012, Seda Hotel BGC is not only the first hotel of Ayala Group’s Seda hotel chain but also the first hotel to open in Bonifacio Global City itself. The hotel’s name comes from the Tagalog word (itself loaned for Spanish) which meant silk, thus its logo bearing a cloth-like design. The hotel was designed by CT Onglao Architects (who would become the go-to designer for all subsequent Seda hotels) and originally consisted of one tower with 16 storeys and 179 rooms. It was later expanded with a second tower added that has 21 levels and 342 rooms.
W High Street (28th Street corner 11 Avenue) – Completed in 2011, this 6-storey building is the first of the many buildings in BGC by property developer W Group. It is designed by Miami-based architectural firm Arquitectonica in close collaboration with Esteban Y. Tan & Associates and is known for its renowned tenants which include local dealerships for Audi and Lamborghini.
AC Motors Centrale (28th Street) – Opened last June 2022, it serves as the home of AC Motors of the Ayala Group, which holds some key dealerships for Honda, Kia, Volkswagen, Isuzu, Husqvana, and KTM. As such, it is touted as the biggest multi-brand auto and motorcycle showroom in the country.
W Global Center (30th Street corner 9th Avenue) – Another project of the W Group, W Global Center is an 8-storey building completed in 2012. The one notable thing about the building is it was the home of IHOP when it established its presence in the country in 2013 but it has closed down its operations some time back.
JY Campos Center (30th Street corner 9th Avenue) – Named after one of Unilab’s founders Jose Y. Campos, the JY Campos Center is a 10-storey structure designed by Singaporean architectural firm CSYA. It was completed in 2013 and is the home of Del Monte Philippines and NutriAsia, the company behind the brands Datu Puti, UFC, Papa, Silver Swan, and Mang Tomas among others. Both companies incidentally are controlled by the Campos family.
Mariano K. Tan Center (30th Street) – Jose Y. Campos and Mariano K. Tan are inseparable in life when they founded Unilab and even in death. Thus, it should be no surprise that one of the newest buildings in BGC and in this area in particular, the Mariano K. Tan Center is located right next to the JY Campos Center. At the time of writing, the building is in its finishing touches but there is already some considerable activity already going on as the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (now called The M) is preparing its new home there which is set to open by early next year, if not later this year.
ActiveFun BGC (28th Street corner 9th Avenue) – Completed in 2011, the 5-storey ActiveFun building mostly serves mainly as an indoor children’s playground and activity center, with some commercial establishments (banks mainly) and office spaces located here as well.
Alveo Corporate Center (28th Street) – The 8-storey building is the headquarters of Alveo Land, a subsidiary of Ayala Land which caters to upscale residential and commercial projects. (a tier below Ayalaland Premier which is the luxury brand, so to speak) Completed in 2013, it sports a more contemporary design compared to many of the buildings in the area which is designed by Asuncion Berenguer Inc.
One Parkade and Two Parkade (7th Avenue corner 30th and 28th Streets, respectively) – As the name implies, the two Parkade buildings are the indoor parking areas near Bonifacio High Street, with the ground floor reserved for retail and the upper two levels for parking.
In the next installment, we shall look at the further developments of BGC Central from 7th Avenue all the way to Mind Museum
Acknowledgements as well to the Urban Land Institute, KMC Savills, More Fun with Juan, W Group, Manila Standard, Sun Star, Seda Hotels, and Zigwheels,