January 14, 2011

Quezon Institute land deal needs historical body's OK

(The main building of the Quezon Institute which houses the offices of the Phil. Tuberculosis Society Inc., QI operator. The building was designed by National Artist Architect Juan Nakpil.)

THE much-coveted Quezon Institute (QI) property along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City will cost Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) at least P2.3 billion.

ALI has expressed interest in the lot, eyeing a mixed-use development for the area, meaning residential buildings, corporate offices and commercial establishments.

But before the QI property can be sold, the transaction has to be cleared first with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), its officials stressed. Built in the 1930s, Quezon Institute’s main building was designed by architect Juan F. Nakpil, a national artist.

Antonino Aquino, president of Ayala Land, told the BusinessMirror in a text message: “We are interested in properties of this scale in this part of Quezon City.”

In a separate, chance interview, Jan Bengzon, ALI assistant vice president for external affairs, confirmed: “We’ve been interested in that property for the longest time for a mixed-use development.”

The 6.5-hectare QI property is owned by the Philippine Tuberculosis Society Inc. (PTSI), which earlier had sold a portion of the lot at the corner of Araneta Avenue and E. Rodriguez Avenue, to Puregold, where a supermarket now stands.

It is the same property where the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office also used to hold office until its management felt that its building was structurally unsafe.

Based on the latest zonal values of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the QI property is worth about P35,000 per square meter as it may be considered a commercial area already and is located beside a main road.

Possibly, P2.3 billion

Real-estate brokers consulted by the BusinessMirror though said the price of the entire lot could even exceed P2.3 billion since there are “improvements” on the property, or buildings.

So a similar property in the area, like a commercial building, could go as high as P75,000 per sq m. Thus, the QI property could be worth even close to P5 billion.

In an interview, architect Wilkie de Lumen of the NHCP’s Historic Preservation Division said: “With the new Heritage Law, or Republic Act 10066, [the QI property] is automatically protected, more so that its building was designed by architect Nakpil, a national artist. It is considered a national treasure and any sale or improvements [must pass through NHCP] even if it is privately owned.”

(This building on the right corner of the QI property used to house the offices of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office until its management decided it was no longer structurally unsound. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines said the PCSO did not seek the agency’s permission to drill into the building and assess its integrity. This building is estimated at older than 50 years and thus protected by national heritage laws.)

He added the same law prescribes “penalties if owners neglect the historical property, or any improvements are not properly coordinated with the NHCP.” Article XVIII of the law on penal provisions enumerates violations, such as destruction, demolition, mutilation and damage of “any world heritage site, national cultural treasures, important cultural property and archaeological and anthropological sites;” as well as modification, alteration or destruction “of the original features or [construction] or real-estate development in any national shrine, monument, landmark and other historic edifices and structures, declared, classified and marked by the National Historical Institute as such, without the prior written permission from the commission.”

The same law adds that violators, upon conviction, would be fined not less than P200,000 or a prison term of not less than 10 years.

ALI’s Bengzon said if the property and its buildings are considered national historical landmarks, “then we can work around that. We can always preserve the buildings like what we’ve done with Nielson Tower.”

Built in 1937, the Nielson Tower in Makati City used to be an airport passenger terminal and control tower of the old Nielson airport, which was part of the Hacienda San Pedro Makati of the Zobel de Ayala family.

The airport was also the site of the United States Far East Air Force headquarters in World War II. The old terminal now houses the Filipinas Heritage Library. For his part, architect Reynaldo Inovero, chief of the NHCP’s HPD, said the commission will “write [the PTSI] and ask for any plans they might have [regarding the QI property]. We have to look at the engineering studies [on the proposed development] if these are feasible.”

(My story was originally published in the BusinessMirror on Jan. 12, 2011. Photos copyrighted Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo.)

1 comment:

Virgilio Abuan said...

This historical landmark is a national treasure. It reminds us of Philippines commitment to fight tubercolosis in the past and the future. The building itself is integrity of that promise as it holds the TB cross logo. President Quezon died of TB and this building is dedicated in his memory and we Filipinos ought to honor it. Please dont replace it with another shopping mall. Give it the respect it deserves. Renovate the buildings and use it for research and development against TB. Many of our countrymen will benefit from it. Many of us Filipinos are getting the disease.