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    Skyscrapers herald coming Gilded Age of Metro Cagayan de Oro

    By Mike Baños

    The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) projects Cagayan de Oro City to become the Philippines next metropolitan center by 2025 after Manila, Cebu and Davao in its Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

    Based on its projected population growth, strategic location as gateway and logistics hub for Northern Mindanao, and role as a key education center in the south, it is expected to join Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao in serving as the economic and administrative cores of the three main island groups of the country, the NEDA said.

    As the regional center and business hub of Northern Mindanao, the emerging Metropolitan Cagayan de Oro area includes the city of El Salvador; fourteen municipalities of Misamis Oriental (AlubijidBalingasagClaveriaGitagumInitaoJasaanLaguindinganLibertadLugaitManticaoNaawanOpolTagoloan, and Villanueva);  and six municipalities of Bukidnon (Manolo FortichBaungonLibonaMalitbogSumilao and Talakag). 

    During the latest Philippines Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index, Cagayan de Oro City ranked as the 7th Overall Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City in 2023, up one rank higher than the previous year. The city was 2nd in Resiliency, 5th in Innovation, 7th in Government Efficiency, 7th Most Improved Highly Urbanized City and 8th in Infrastructure.

    Long famous for its tagline as the “City of Golden Friendship”, the city could need a new moniker as it attains increasing metropolization, with ever taller skyscrapers as harbingers of a Gilded Age referencing the original suffix of “de Oro.” “The New El Dorado” perhaps?

    Rising to new heights

    Time was when the VIP Hotel (“The Heart of the City”) was its tallest structure and diners at its Casa Real (earlier known as the Comedor Real) reveled at the panoramic view of the city from its seventh floor, then the highest point in the city.

    Just a few decades down the road, balik Kagay-anons could hardly believe their eyes at the changes that have risen in the skyline of their beloved city.

    Today, the highest existing building in the city and Northern Mindanao is the Avida Towers Aspira Tower 2 of AyalaLand on Ramon Chaves street. Soaring 33 floors high to 115 meters (377 feet), it will surpass its adjacent Avida Towers Aspira Tower 1 (29 floors/105 meters/344 feet) when it is completed this year.

    Ranked third is the  Loop North Tower at Limketkai Center whose 26 floors rise to 92 meters (302 feet). It is Vista Residences‘ first high-rise development outside Metro Manila

    Rounding out the top five tallest buildings is the 24-floor Avida Centrio Tower (83 meters/272 feet) which became the city’s first high-rise condominium when it was completed in 2016, and Limketkai Luxe Hotel with 19 stories (78 meters/256 feet), still the tallest and biggest hotel in Cagayan de Oro.

    Special mention must be made of the SM CDO Downtown Tower whose 12 stories (75 meters/246 feet) makes it the tallest existing office building in Cagayan de Oro, and New Dawn Plus Hotel which is approximately the same height although with 20 stories as the second tallest hotel in the city.

    Skyscrapers in the Metro

    Now while these structures may look awesome to those who have not previously seen buildings this tall, it still doesn’t quite cut it as skyscrapers are currently defined.

    Buildings that range between 10 and 20 floors are traditionally the measure for a building to qualify as a skyscraper, but as advances were made in construction, the metrics to be considered a skyscraper has risen to 150-meters (492-foot) minimum, though there is no universally defined minimum height. In the past, the word ‘skyscraper’ was also applied to buildings with just 10 stories.

    Thus, the upcoming projects still to come should merit the name better, none perhaps more than Limketkai Luxe Hotel Tower 2 with its 36 floors topping off at 160 meters (520 feet).

    As of this time, Limketkai Center in Barangay Lapasan and Pueblo de Oro Township in Uptown Cagayan de Oro seem to be the choice locations of these behemoths, like The Loop South Tower (26 stories/92 meters/302 feet) for the former, and Primavera City Città Alta (32 stories/95 meters/312 feet) in the latter.

    Unique even among these upcoming projects is Pueblo de Oro’s Masterson Mile North Towers. Designed by renowned international architects Gensler and Associates from Singapore and Casas+Architects, it is composed of five buildings spanning 22 to 27 floors, calling to mind the iconic  Rockefeller Center of New York City.

    A large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th Street and 51st Street in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York CityRockefeller Center initially consisted of  14 Art Deco buildings, commissioned by the Rockefeller family, that span the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, split by a large sunken square and a private street called Rockefeller Plaza. Later additions include 75 Rockefeller Plaza across 51st Street at the north end of Rockefeller Plaza, and four International Style buildings on the west side of Sixth Avenue.

    Spreading the Love

    But as the metropolitan area grows, high rise projects are already spawning outside the two aforementioned enclaves.

    At the junction of C.M. Recto Avenue and R.N. Pelaez Boulevard, Cebu Landmasters, Inc. (CLI) is putting up Casa Mira Tower 2 (27 floors/87 meters/285 feet) and Casa Mira Tower 1 (23 floors/74 meters/243 feet), two  high rise residential condominiums.

    Further west along the national highway, Ayala Land is constructing Habini Bay, a P15-billion, 526-hectare new growth center within the municipalities of Alubijid and Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental anchored by an industrial park to be managed by Laguna Technopark Inc. (LTI), one of the country’s foremost industrial estate developers which brought in leading manufacturers of electronics, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products. Affordable residential developments will also be built in the estate, together with mixed-use commercial lots.

    On the opposite direction of the same national highway, the 14-hectare Valley View Township and 7-hectare Nirvana Village projects in Sta. Ana, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental are set to begin soon.

    Valley View Township is a shelter initiative of the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) under President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino (4PH) Housing Program, which seeks to address the 6.5 million housing backlog in the country. To be constructed by RGJ Realty Corporation, the multi-billion peso township project to be financed by SHFC is expected to benefit workers in Tagoloan and nearby areas, including employees in the municipality’s 3,000-hectare PHIVIDEC Industrial Park.

    Each of the 25 residential condominium towers in the township will consist of 13 floors with 32 units at each level. To give future residents adequate options tailored to their needs, each building offers a mix of 25 and 27 square meter-units. Valley View Townships is expected to be completed within the next three years.

    Adjacent to this will be Nirvana Village, an upscale multi-tower high-end residential condominium project by RGJ Realty Corporation within a 7-hectare area with 39 12-story towers.

    Looking forward

    In a recent media forum, the National Economic Development Authority’s Region X office reported that Northern Mindanao’s (Region X) economy grew by 7.2 percent in 2022, with total Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) valued at P935-billion (at constant 2018 prices). In nominal terms, the region joined the ranks of trillion-peso regional economies registering P1.07 trillion in total output at current prices last year.

    Cagayan de Oro City recorded the highest growth rate among its provinces and highly urbanized cities, with a Provincial Product Account valued at P935,299, 921 (in constant 2018 prices), and expanding at 9.4 percent in 2022. It accounted for 28% of the region’s GRDP in 2022, closely followed by Bukidnon with 27% and a Provincial Product Account valued at P248,750,303 (at constant 2018 princes).

    NEDA-X is targeting the regional economy to attain an annual economic growth of 6.5% -8.0% for 2025-2028.

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