Pushing back against traffic congestion and gathering strength from the BPO industry, townships are redefining the residential landscapeSome cities in the Philippines were founded on the best of plans. There’s Cebu, the oldest, which took after a grid-iron street pattern conceived by Spanish colonists. There’s Baguio, the American hill station, designed by architect Daniel Burnham. Manila, the capital, started out as an enclosed fort called Intramuros.
This is the future of luxury living in the PH!
Many Philippine cities have since expanded in chaotic, ad hoc fashion. From these centuries of ferment the concept of integrated urban townships emerged.
While “township” takes on different meanings — it’s a government unit in the US and a racially charged term in apartheid South Africa — an integrated urban township refers to a self-contained, master-planned community that is on the watch of a single property developer. The integrated township also comes with a trifecta of differentiators.
“The live-work-and-play concept would allow for flexibility, mobility, and a whole host of other amenities and facilities that’s not really captured by a single mixed-use development,” Claro Cordero, head of research at Jones Lang LaSalle Philippines, explained.
Unlike private subdivisions, integrated townships usually have high-grade commercial buildings within a one-kilometre radius of the residential area, according to Michael McCullough, managing director at KMC MAG Group, a Manila-based international associate of Savills. “These buildings cater to the requirements of both SMEs and largescale businesses, so finding a job that’s close to home would be possible,” he said.
In fact, the Philippines’ first integrated township, Eastwood City, came with the ascent of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
In 1997, property development titan Megaworld Corp launched a then-renegade project: an IT park for BPO offices. A captive market of shift workers emerged.
Round-the-clock retail operations began to agglomerate in an 18-hectare wasteland in Quezon City that had been home to a textile mill. Sales increased for nearby retail establishments, on fixed rents, as they extended hours. By 2001, the first residential tower in the area, Olympic Heights, was ready for turnover.
Best place to live and work!
That IT park has since grown to 10 office blocks and morphed into a paragon of Megaworld’s “live-work-play-learn” thrust: Eastwood City. Now host to 55,000 workers and 25,000 residents, Eastwood has truly become the micro-city that never sleeps.
In many respects, the Eastwood template of townships represents a pushback against the Manila traffic, voted “worst on earth” in a Waze survey last year.
“Townships provide people with greater life-balance by providing ‘everything’ people need for daily life within the same area,” said Sigrid Zialcita, managing director for Asia Pacific research at Cushman & Wakefield.
Snaking around Megaworld’s townships are covered walkways and bike lanes that undercut the necessity of fossil-fuelled transport. For BPO employees who don’t live in Eastwood or any of its nine Metro Manila townships, Megaworld has created a 24/7 bus network called CityLink.
In a nation where quality public space is synonymous with shopping malls, Megaworld forges at the cutting edge
In a nation where quality public space is synonymous with shopping malls, Megaworld forges at the cutting edge. Accredited by the state as a “tourism entertainment complex,” Eastwood City pioneered complimentary butler service and pet-friendly zones in its malls. A typical residential building in Eastwood — the township currently has 19 condominium blocks — would include function rooms, sky gardens, lap pools, children’s pools, playgrounds, fitness gyms, and game rooms. This year, the township was named Grand Winner in Urban Land Institute’s Healthy Places Awards.
“Given the current infrastructure problems of Metro Manila, homeowners are increasingly inclined to purchase property or even a second (or halfway) home within the vicinity of their work,” noted Yves Luethi, vice president of KMC MAG Group.
“Since those who typically find themselves in this situation are gainfully employed as expatriates, executives, or young professionals, they are increasingly able to afford high-end residential offerings in the same area.”
The third tower at the French-inspired LeGrand residential project
Home values in Eastwood average around PHP130,000 (USD2,800) per square meter, while rental rates in LeGrand, the township’s new, French-inspired condominium towers, average PHP25,000 (USD537) for studios, PHP35,000 (USD752) for a one-bedroom unit, and PHP50,000 (USD1,075) for a two-bedroom one.
Demand for township homes is also “highly driven by overseas foreign workers,” who along with BPO workers, may bring in USD51 billion in revenues to the country this year, added Luethi.
The large sums of remittances, coupled with the fact that 49 percent of the Philippines' population now live in urban areas, would suggest that the latest township model of urban planning has never been more crucial to the future of the country.
“The township is the highest form of what you can achieve in terms of development," Go said. “Cities are now aspiring to be townships rather than the other way around.”