going mental (3.a) -confluences and waterfronts

above: conceptual map of metro manila with
suggested areas to celebrate the waterfront.

below: four opportunity sites at the confluence
of the pasig and the san juan rivers

So how do we reconnect to our bay, our lake and our rivers? How do we bring them back into our shared imaginations of our cities?

To do that, we have to celebrate our rivers, our lake and our bay. We have to celebrate them as places -and with places. Physical places where we can see and approach the water. Where the waters can reclaim their rightful place in our imagination.

Fortunately for us, waterfronts offer some of the easiest areas for redevelopment -specially in old industrial cities. Most watefronts are occupied by old industrial sites which used to use the water for transport (hence the location). Most have been either abandoned, or given over to unprofitable uses.

Cities all over the world have rediscovered and reinvested in their waterfronts. Check out False Creek in Vancouver, or London's Canary Wharf (also this), or Singapore's Boat Quay, or the Cambridgeside Galleria in Cambridge, Massachusetts -all of these were former decrepit industrial sites that were redeveloped by public and private funds, through the creation of innovative policy tools and investment vehicles.

We've started on that road somewhat -with Marikina's Riverbanks, and Manila's Baywalk. Hopefully, the expansion of Rockwell into the old Noah's Ark Sugar factory property and the old Colgate-Palmolive factory will incorporate riverfront access. So too, I hope, Ayala's redevelopment of the Sta. Ana racetrack.

If I had my druthers, I would turn the whole stretch of the pasig from the bay to the palace into a "riverwalk" -anchored on one end by the Intramuros and Fort Santiago and by Malacanang on the other -with the Arroceros Forest Park and a re-oriented Liwasang Bonifacio as gems in between. (Why hasn't anyone redeveloped Quiapo Ilalim?) -And I would celebrate where the waters meet -river to river, river to bay. (See conceptual map to the right.)

I looked through Google Earth and identified at least 14 brownfield opportunity sites along the Pasig - notably at it's confluences with the San Juan and the Marikina -that are ripe for redevelopment. (Apart from the the manila oil depot -which really should move out of the city.)

Four are in Sta. Ana and Sta. Mesa -on an interesting loop of land right where the San Juan meets with the Pasig (see picture to the right). There are large swaths of land in Mandaluyong and Makati, along the banks of the Pasig near EDSA, and then even more right where the Marikina meets the Pasig. There are sites just east of C-5 and more south of Eastwood City (which, incidentally made the mistake of turning its back on the river.)

I do not know how productive these properties are currently, but they would be great to redevelop into mixed-use, commercial, business and residential properties. The concerned cities should reassemble these lands - invest in the demolition and remediation (clear up any toxic messes) -then create public-private reinvestment companies to redevelop the sites. The tradeoffs (in return for the public investment) should be that the redevelop sites should set aside the waterfront for publicly accesible parks or public open spaces and that a percentage of the residential development should be affordable housing.

I've posted the 14 sites I selected on Google Earth Philippines where you can download the kml file. Or you can view the sites via Google Maps.


"What about the pollution?" you say. "Have you smelled the Pasig?" - Well one of the things we've discovered about redeveloping waterfronts -of placing parks next to the water -is that it only increases awareness and concern for the state of the rivers and lakes. The redeveloped sites become valuable opportunities (and venues) for educating the public about water -and the role it plays in our lives. (See this project in Chengdu, China.)

The redeveloped sites could also be required to build in passive (or active) water treatment or bioremediation facilities such as living machines. (See also this example and this one.)

(If you spot other places for redevelopment, send your kml file to Google Earth Philippines -or send us suggestions on Philippines Makeover.)

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