The Urban Green Development at Ortigas Center (the Pasig Side, at Least)

We have read and seen too many sad stories of urban decay, especially here in the metropolis. Because of this, there has been this lingering sense of hopelessness with the disorder and chaos that we see around the city.

That being said, any story that offers positive developments and give a sense of hope that things can be done to at least mitigate the chaos is very much welcome. Like the developments going on at Ortigas Center…the Pasig part of it at least.

Thanks to the “Green City” initiative of the Pasig City Government, the Pasig portion of the Ortigas Center district has been given a makeover of sorts in the recent years to be an environment-friendly and people-friendly area. Not that Ortigas Center has not been wanting in that aspect. If anything, the present Ortigas Park is itself a nice green space development,albeit not as big as it should be due to the constraints in space.

One of the first things the Pasig government did was having the stretch of F. Ortigas Jr. Avenue (the former Emerald Avenue) from Garnet Road to Julia Vargas Avenue become a dedicated biking area on Sundays, thus closed to vehicular traffic on that day.

The next phase in Ortigas Center’s urban renewal was the installation of bike sharing stations around the Pasig side of the district. This aimed to encourage biking as a way of getting around the district instead of using cars, promoting a green and healthy lifestyle in the district and among the people working and/or working around the district. Right now though, it seems to be a work in progress as the bikes are yet to be in place and the machines yet to work.

Along with that development was the set up of dedicated bike lanes along a number of roads in the district. Just to show how serious Pasig is in promoting biking, these dedicated bike lanes are not only marked on the road surface, there are also metal barriers in place to make sure no vehicle gets to occupy them during traffic.

Then there is also the improvement of the sidewalks, particularly along F. Ortigas Jr. and Julia Vargas Avenue as they became a bit wider and now sporting new surface pavement for the comfort of pedestrians using the sidewalks.

But perhaps the development that has made the most impact in the district is the overhead pedestrian walkway along Julia Vargas Avenue from Sapphire Street to San Miguel Avenue. It’s reminiscent of the pedestrian walkway along Dela Rosa Street in Makati. The only difference is the central plaza of sorts which is the open space in the middle near F. Ortigas Jr. Avenue which serves as additional space for rest and relaxation, complementing Ortigas Park. A nice touch, I have to say.


However, as has been noted before, all these developments are only confined to the Pasig side of Ortigas Center. The thing about this business district is that it has a complicated governance structure, with parts under the jurisdiction of Mandaluyong (from EDSA to ADB-San Miguel Avenue) and Quezon City (Robinsons Galleria and EDSA Shrine).

In this case, the only missing component to make Ortigas Center a fully-developed green urban development is the initiative of the Mandaluyong side to complement the Pasig initiative. At the very least, the Julia Vargas pedestrian walkway could have been extended all the way to SM Megamall. And apparently, if Paulo Alcazaren (who actually helped design the walkway and much of the Ortigas Center green developments) is to be believed, SM Megamall originally was amenable to it. However, the problem lied supposedly with the properties along the way (reportedly, San Miguel Corporation and Keppel which is building the new Podium across it) opposing it as the walkway was “ruining the skyline.” Sadly, Mandaluyong did not act to at least overrule the opposition, which is a real shame and disappointment.

In a way, this reflects the problem with Metro Manila as far as governance is concerned, As was explained in a previous post, the fact that there is no central Metro Manila government that would promote and “enforce” such developments throughout the metropolis only serves to promote further disjointedness of an already disjointed metropolis.

Here’s hoping we see a total green development of the entire Ortigas Center, for the benefit of the people working and living in the district and for the metropolis.

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