OPINION: McMicking’s Makati Skyline

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Sep 30 2017 02:42 AM | Updated as of Oct 03 2017 05:42 PM

Why are the inner streets of the Makati Ayala Central Business District (CBD) the Philippines’ much touted financial center, so narrow and so tight?   

The principal thoroughfare,  Ayala Avenue, is bordered by Buendia (now Puyat) on the eastern parameter and on the western outer limit, there is Pasay Road (now Arnaiz). The width of Ayala  Avenue, and the same with Paseo de Roxas  and Makati Avenue,  was designed to bear the projected vehicular traffic  volume of the new planned commercial community.  At the time of Makati CBD’s conception, the inner streets belonging to what has been named Salcedo and Legaspi Villages, were designed for the occupancy of much smaller and shorter edifices. In other words, those streets were  designed for scantier vehicular traffic serving a smaller population.

The designated maximum height of  Makati CBD’s skyline (15 floors) had to adhere to the limits set by the Civil Aeronautics Board’s restrictions and  to the vision of Joe McMicking. The building height restrictions were based on the then existing take-off and landing patterns of aircraft using the nearby Manila International Airport.

In Joe McMicking’s vision,  the tallest buildings, with a maximum height of fifteen storeys, were those that faced Ayala Avenue, Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue. Hence, the height of old buildings still existing like the Insular Life.  The height of structures graded down as they go towards Buendia and Pasay Road. They were to taper down to two storeys, as in fact, they did. That vision called for planning what may have looked like a pyramid from a very far view.  The apex of 15-storey buildings along Ayala Avenue going down to two storeys as they front Buendia and Pasay.

Many old area residents, office workers and habitues of the new commercial and business hub rising in Makati at the time will remember this configuration.

These elements of design were incorporated into the documents of sale, in  the issued property titles.  They were referred to as “deed restrictions.”  And they were simply imposed without hassle and complied with, with an absence of complaint or buyer’s remorse.

And so what happened to McMicking’s vision?  Let me cut to the chase, as best as I can recall.

This must have been in the later 1960s.  Along the street named Leviste within the Salcedo Village area, a block away from and facing Buendia, a lot buyer/owner decided to commence construction of a structure that violated the ‘deed restrictions,’ most specifically  the height of his office building.  In an area designated for no more than four or five floors,  his must have been at least fifteen.  Naturally, Ayala sued for compliance of a legal covenant between seller and buyer. 

What ought to have been a slam dunk, the basis of Ayala’s suit being  otherwise airtight, because it was undeniably an outright violation of a lawful contract, the “deed restrictions.” Nonetheless, Ayala lost the case. Fair and square? I hesitate to speculate on the integrity of the deviant buyer-owner as well as that of the judge who handed down the decision.  Was judicial hanky-panky  not ever near a norm?  On the other hand, it really no longer matters.  The ensuing aggravation had become the reality that Makati has to live with and suffer from.

As an inevitable consequence, the immediate net effect of Ayala losing the case was the  bonanza of highly enhanced real estate  values in the affected vicinities. Existing buyer-owners were of course benefited. Enabled, by uncontested jurisprudence,  to realize  more floor space,  expanded assets  and more wealth out of  property  purchased with restrictions now removed.

Despite this onslaught of unexpected occupancy, people-wise and vehicle-wise, it was much, much too late to redesign the width of the streets.   Besides, Ayala too became an unintentional beneficiary of the bonanza. The biggest number of as yet unsold lots were still in Ayala’s inventory.

When the government air control restrictions were lifted and altered , Ayala, the association of owners of CBD properties and the city  government all agreed to concomitantly raise the height limitations. Thus, the skyscraper era in Makati and in the rest of the Metro followed. In the meantime, hardly a kilometer of new streets have been added to the metropolis.

San Beda in Makati

When Dasmariñas Village was being planned, incorporated therein was a 10-hectare space allocated for a school.  A school site is always an irreplaceable amenity that enhances the value of living in any community. For a developer of Ayala’s reputation and caliber, such amenity is an obligatory commitment. San Lorenzo Village already had Assumption, while the  area designated for industrial zoning had already allocated the corner of Pasong Tamo and Pasay for Don Bosco, a Catholic vocational school.

There was yet no particular school thought of, much less any invitation for any school to locate in  Dasmarinas Village, undoubtedly a prestige site. 
Ayala and the IL-FGU Insurance Group had the reputation of preferring alumni from De La Salle College for its executives, junior executives, and supervisors.  Joe McMicking finished grade school there. We had  A.F. Gonzalez, Miguel Ortigas, Joe Olbes, Max Velhagen, Mau Blardony, Greg Henson, etc.  Miguel “Long” Ortigas, who was then Ayala general manager for sales (JRM’s first cousin),  used to tease me, ”How did this SamBedista get into Ayala!” I am of course a proud San Beda alumnus.  

Again, this is sometime in the later 1960s. Less than a handful of San Beda alumni would even remember what I am about to share.

I approached Col. McMicking and performed a sales pitch on behalf of my alma mater, imploring him to award the sale of the Dasmarinas school site to San Beda. He, too, teased me for being a SamBedista but he did approve my request. Dasmarinas Village was going to be the new school site of San Beda College, my alma mater! The rest was up to me.

I brought the matter up with the San Beda Alumni Board, of which I was a member. Don Benito Lim (father of Olympic basketball player, Eddie Lim and of my classmate Tony Lim) was the President.  Enrique “Spanky” Perez was also a  director, so with the late Rafael Carrascoso-Velez and Dante  Q. Barbosa.  I think Vicenting Cuna and Monching Mitra, and maybe Cesar Yatco, too, were members of the Board.  My proposal was unanimously approved by the Alumni Board,  for endorsement. But, of course, the final decision was up to the Benedictine authorities, represented by the Father Rector. Then it was Benigno Benabarre, O.S.B., may his soul rest in peace.

Ayala was willing to sell the Dasmarinas property to San Beda for the very well below market price of PhPesos sixteen (P16.00) per square meter!  That was Ayala’s development cost.

To the Alumni Board of Directors’ chagrin, Father Benabarre turned it down and instead insisted on an outright donation from Ayala! The Board begged him,  showing  and proving  what a very generously priced acquisition it was and, in fact, quite a “coup” acquiring a Dasmarinas campus.  But to no avail.  Benabarre  wanted that 10-hectare school site for free! I think, properties in Dasmarinas Village today are in excess of P200,000.00 per square meter!  Truly unbelieveable and certainly unpredictable that a concessional P1.6 million real estate purchase then would have,  today,  an asset value  of P20 billion!   

San Beda and the Benedictines who ran the school had a sorry history of financial decisions that went painfully awry and disastrous. This was just one of them.

San Beda’s loss is now the glory of Colegio de San Agustin. San Beda, some years later, added a new school site, purchasing property in Alabang for an undisclosed price. But certainly  not at P16.00 per square meters!

Whenever I think of this episode, I  still find myself at a loss.  Still crestfallen!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.