Horizon Manila: The city of the future starts rising today

Published May 29, 2021, 4:26 AM

by Johannes Chua

It is hard to encapsulate in words the magnitude, breadth, and ambition of a project such as Horizon Manila. Adjectives such as massive, colossal, or even grand do not do justice as this development is not only transforming a landscape, but changing the way we live and believe in the Filipino spirit. One thing is for sure — the future of Manila is bright, smart, sustainable, and so much more exciting! 

For starters, look at these numbers. Horizon Manila is a 419-hectare reclamation project, with an appraised present value of P321 billion. The development, when viewed from a bird’s eye perspective, is divided into three islands, which contains 28 compact communities and districts. The whole property is connected to the main Manila area via a three-kilometer bridge tunnel over Manila Bay. What’s commendable with this project is that it is expected to generate at least 500,000 new jobs during and after the construction, providing employment for the Filipino talent and bringing in new revenue streams for businesses and the government.  And if there’s one number to take note, it is one — behind this monumental project is one company called JBros Construction Corporation.  

“We are excited to finally present Horizon Manila to all. This is an exciting project that has the potential to single-handedly put Manila in the forefront of development and international investment. On top of this, we are also excited to finally see the fruits of our labor for the last four years,” says JBros Construction Corp. President Jesusito “JR” Legaspi, Jr. 

JBros Construction Corp. President Jesusito “JR” Legaspi, Jr. stands in front of the scale model of Horizon Manila.

In an interview, Legaspi reveals that the project is not just an extension of the densely-populated Manila City, but is in fact a “New Modern Manila City” in itself. The entire project will be built from scratch so no stone is left unturned, so to speak, as only the best of the best are involved from its inception, presentation to implementation and construction. 

Horizon Manila, which received approval from the Philippine Competition Commission early this year, is a joint venture with the City Government of Manila. Legaspi says that the project is at no cost to the government, who owns 51 percent of the property. 

“This is really very beneficial for the future Manileños. The 51 percent includes almost 30 hectares of green space, 70 hectares of public roads which we will develop, and 85 hectares of prime land, which can earn revenues for the city,” says Legaspi, noting that Horizon Manila is projected to generate billions of business and real estate taxes for the government, providing funds for social services. 

One positive aspect that Legaspi sees is that a project of this scale would attract big-ticket foreign investments back to the country. It could also lift the economy as businesses in diverse industries such as retail, tourism, or banking would find new opportunities and feel a  renewed sense of confidence. 

Artist’s perspective of the aerial view of the Horizon Manila.

The project’s location is also ideal, as it is in the heart of Manila, the pride of our nation. No less than Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso extended his support, even wholeheartedly commending Horizon Manila as his first reclamation project. In return, Legaspi personally presented to the mayor the project’s masterplan called “Manileño: A Better Manila.”       

Preview of a Better Manila 

At the core of a Better Manila is a people-centric principle — it is about improving lives, providing opportunities, and making sure that people live in a sustainable, mobile, and connected environment. 

In this aspect, JBros Construction got the services of leading firm WTA Architecture, which  led by Architect William Ti, to create a city that is forward-looking, yet also honors the heritage of Manila.   

“It was a pleasant surprise to know that William grew up in Tondo, so he knows very well how to balance Manila’s character with that of Horizon Manila,” says Legaspi. “Even though this is an ultra-modern development, we shouldn’t forget the rich culture and heritage of a city that is almost 500 years old.” 

This balance of new and old would be reflected in the 28 compact communities and districts within Horizon Manila. These districts, designed to cater to different lifestyles, include the Business District, which is like the CBD; an Art District, where museums and artistic venues are located; and Gateway District where parks and open spaces are available. Although these districts have their characteristics, the overarching quality of all is that they are part of a Smart City. 

“Put very simply, a Smart City is a city that uses technology to make living in it both convenient and sustainable. Horizon Manila accomplishes this through various ways and the intended outcome is for the benefit of those who would live and work there in the future,” says Legaspi.  

Among the features of Horizon Manila considered as components of a Smart City are the following: First, a green plot ratio of one: All developers within Horizon Manila will be required to incorporate green spaces within its development. 

“For example, for a 2,000-square meter lot, the developer will be required to also put in 2,000 square meters of green spaces within their development. These can be placed on the roof deck, on the façade of their building, or even in indoor gardens. This, on top of the 30 hectares of dedicated public parks within Horizon, ensure a truly green development,” he says. 

Second, personal mobility is prioritized with an array of transportation options available for citizens, workers, and visitors of Horizon Manila. Besides the public transportation systems within the project, such as the water taxis, water ferries, bus rapid transits, and a monorail, walking and biking are always convenient options due to the existence of pedestrian-only, pedestrian-priority zones, and bike routes. On top of these, buildings along the main avenue are required to be arcaded to further ensure a comfortable walking experience.

“A measure of a good city is when its inhabitants use public transport or walk to reach a destination. So our goal at Horizon Manila is that you don’t have to use a car to go around. You can even be in your business attire yet walk pleasantly from one place to another,” says Legaspi. 

Third, part of Horizon Manila’s Smart City initiatives is creating an interconnected green network. This is a planned 30 hectares of public green spaces within the city to form an interconnected green network with terminations at different points of the island’s perimeter, providing multiple places to be near Manila Bay. This also allows people to walk all around the three islands while being within a park the whole time.

Last but not least, there would be an emphasis on renewable and clean energy. “While, currently, it is not feasible to have Horizon Manila completely powered by renewable energy, we are looking for ways to use and incorporate as much renewable technology as possible including renewable power and electric transportation vehicles,” he says. 

Landmarks of the future 

With a land area that massive, it is inevitable that there would be so many landmarks inside Horizon Manila. As this would be a complete city, it would cater to different needs for business, work, education, and recreation. 

To help us identify some of the landmarks that would stand out, Legaspi shares four of his picks. 

a. Horizon Central Station — The true hallmark of a well-designed city is the availability of multiple transportation options. When you are in Horizon Manila, we want you to feel that taking your car is the least convenient way to travel. The interconnected transportation network all branches out from this station. The vision is that workers from mainland Manila arriving in Horizon will be gathered here in the morning, before going to work, then again in the evening, after work.

b. The two sunset parks in the third island — With the two sunset parks located approximately seven kilometers west of Roxas Boulevard (at the westernmost edge of the last island), these parks would be the best place to watch the world-famous Manila Bay sunset.

Horizon Manila will have two sunset parks located at the westernmost edge of the last island.

c. Church of the Crossroads — Located just north of the Horizon Village, the church is seamlessly integrated with the Horizon Central Park. Its design, which rises from the ground, allows the church to literally be a part of the park.

d. E-Sports Arena — We pride ourselves as the City of Tomorrow. As such, we also have to be a part of tomorrow’s trends — one of which is the rising E-sports industry in the country. Located in island one, this will serve as the country’s first E-sports arena, the center of all future E-sports events.

Aside from the four soon-to-be landmarks mentioned by Legaspi, Horizon Manila would also feature an Innovation and Tech Hub, a BioTech campus, a state-of-the-art Horizon Medical Center and various community facilities such as schools, theaters, a skate park, basketball courts, Olympic-sized pools, among others.  A first is also being planned here — the country’s first vertical zoo. 

As for tourism, Horizon Manila would also be at the forefront starting with the availability of a world-class ferry terminal that would receive tourists from all over the world. The future locators of Horizon’s Entertainment District would draw an international audience with events, expos, and conventions.  

Part of the masterplan is also a Yacht Club located at the third island. Its location ensures open water circulation and convenient access to the waters of Manila Bay. Members and guests of the club will enjoy a vibrant social and cruising scene, complemented with a relaxed atmosphere filled with family-oriented activities.

Artist’s perspective of the Tourist District, where a Yacht Club will be located.

“More than the benefits of tourist arrivals, this industry is expected to rake in income for the economy and generate employment for our Filipino hospitality professionals,” says Legaspi. “This is a win-win situation as we get to maximize the best of a waterside lifestyle.”  

The time has come for the rise of Horizon Manila, which is expected to see some works by the end of the year. But for those who want to be part of Manila’s future, the time is now. 

“It is long documented that man longs to be around water since nature has a calming effect. Now, imagine living and working in Horizon Manila where you are always five minutes away from the nearest park, water frontage, or transportation station. The opportunity to have it all comes but once a lifetime. While we are, literally, changing the map of Manila, where will you be?” Legaspi asks. “Be a part of the future and seize the opportunity to make a change. Let’s make Manila better together.” 

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