24 April 2013 // Thoughts

The Business of Culture: Creative Placemaking Part 3 – A Mind for Growth

In our second segment on creative placemaking, we visited The High Line, a park that transformed New York’s Chelsea Neighborhood. But how can placemaking be used to create an entirely new business district?

In 1995, the Bonifacio Land Development Corporation (BLDC) started planning an ambitious urban development on the site of the former Fort Andres Bonifacio (named after the Father of the Philippine Revolution against Spain) in Taguig City, Philippines. The land was sold to the BLDC by the Bases Conversation and Development Authority (which still oversees its privatization) and became Bonifacio Global City (BGC), nicknamed “The Home of Passionate Minds.”

Photo courtesy www.fbdcorp.com

BGC has since experienced robust commercial growth, and Filipino and multinational corporations have acquired properties and committed to relocating their headquarters there. Bonifacio Global City Center is the anchor of the development, where the people of BGC can come together for community activities. It calls itself a “modern wonder of contemporary living populated by great minds and passionate hearts” and welcomes “residents and visitors who value quality living and embrace forward thinking as a key to a better life.” According to the Philippine Inquirer Business, “The movements happening in BGC…have captured the Philippine real estate industry’s imagination…there has been a tectonic shift in the local and foreign business sectors’ choice of prime locations.”

More than a third of Bonifacio Global City has been devoted to open, landscaped, strategically distributed parks, which nods to the creative placemaking concept of triangulation we discussed Wednesday. It also includes an artwalk – an unguided tour of a large-scale public art collection created by Filipino artists. This citywide public art program is managed by the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. (BAFI), a non-profit organization supported by contributions from BGC property owners.

Photo courtesy The Mind Museum

At the core of Bonifacio Global City Center is the JRA-designed Mind Museum, the first world-class science museum in the Philippines, which hosts over 250 interactive “minds-on” and “hands-on” exhibits. I was lucky enough to chat with Maria Isabel Garcia, Curator of The Mind Museum, and ask her how The Mind Museum and BGC have impacted Taguig, Greater Manila and the Philippines as a whole.

CR – Describe the planning process for Bonifacio Global City in general. How much community input was involved? What were the “must haves” from their perspective?

MG – There was a master plan based on the fact that Bonifacio Global City (BGC) was to be transformed from a military camp. There was no residential community so to speak to consult with at first, but the idea was to build another locus aside from the traditional and established central business district, which was Makati. Makati, the product of a co-developer of BGC, Ayala Land Inc., remains vibrant but was getting congested. Now that about 40,000 residents live in the area, they form part of the association that is regularly consulted and apprised on BGC projects and policies. The major lot owners or “locators” are also actively consulted on the same.

CR – Why was it important to include a science museum as an “anchor” for Bonifacio Global City? 
MG – FBDC wanted BGC to be a “city with a soul,” and for this, and they wanted this “soul” anchored in the two main traditions – the arts and sciences. “Arts” are prominently represented by public art installations in strategic points in the city, as well as in the parks. For the sciences, they wanted to have a science museum since the country still did not have one.

CR – How many jobs did Mind Museum bring to the area, and what has been the attendance thus far? Do you have any information on either direct (at the museum) or indirect (in the surrounding neighborhood) per capita spending from visitors and/or locals?
MG – We directly employ about 100 people in the museum. From when we formally opened March 16, 2012 through December 31, 2012, we welcomed about 235,000 guests, which is over our 2012 target of 220,000. We do not have figures on per capita spending, but the average ticket price for the museum is P450 (around $12) and each time slot is three hours, which would require them to eat afterwards (maybe another $5/individual). So I would estimate about $17/capita spending including the ticket price. Our plazas are open to free museum events, so we’ve reached thousands of other people through these programs.

Photo courtesy www.fbdcorp.com

CR – Has there been an influx of tourism to Taguig since BCG was developed, and how much of that can be attributed to The Mind Museum? 
MG – Yes, BGC is the most prominent area in Taguig, and it is the ONLY major attraction in the city as well as one of the major ones the country’s capital. It is also at the highest end of locations.

CR – Have any complementary businesses (restaurants/retail) been developed nearby as a result of the museum? 
MG – The nearby restaurant areas have been significantly activated by the presence of the museum, and many cite their proximity to the museum as one of their “plus” features.

CR – Can you quantify (as yet) the total economic impact that the Mind Museum has had on Bonifacio Global City thus far? What about the impact that BGC has had on Taguig/Manila? 
MG – BGC is the highest income earner of Taguig, with no other section of the city as a close second. As far as The Mind Museum is concerned, we are the only science museum of this size in the country, so most schools book their field trips with us. Only 46% of these schools come from the capital or the larger metro area. The rest come from other parts of the country and must take long and expensive land, ship or air trips. Students are not a major source of business for establishments like restaurants and shops in BGC, which is very high end. On weekends, that is where we have the families who go to shop after the museum, but this percentage is only about 16% of our guests.

CR – What have been the cultural and/or socioeconomic positives or negatives associated with the development of BGC and the Mind Museum? 
MG – They have all been very good so far. BGC is now heralded as a major “city” even if it is not really a “city,” as it is within the chartered city of Taguig. ALL the major business establishments, local and global, have either headquarters or major offices in BGC. Even the Philippine Stock Exchange, once divided and located on two cities, is now uniting for the first time in history in a landmark building in BGC.

CR – What makes BGC so unique, and what can other cities learn from its development (both the process and the result)? 
MG – BGC is very unique in that it is the only city with a deliberate public arts program and a science museum, both essential in its character as envisioned. It is a city where you can “passionately live, work and play.” Its malls are also very unique in the sense that they are outdoors, with ampitheatres and activity areas for artistic performances (impromptu or otherwise), without the “in-your-face merchandising” characterized by most other commercial establishments. Bonifacio Global City recognizes that its denizens and guests are first of all citizens and not consumers. The Mind Museum and public art program are essential components of the overall planning picture.

What we’ve learned from The High Line and The Mind Museum is although arts institutions can positively affect property values and planning, and, as we’ll see in the coming weeks, employment and tourism, they cannot exist in a vacuum. The greatest impact of museums on economic development occurs when museums and complementary organizations “triangulate” within an all-inclusive, locality-specific community plan that also incorporates such things as unique retail, dining, green space, public art, mixed income housing and walkability.

While the impact of museums on housing prices and urban planning is significant, perhaps the greatest indicator of economic growth is job attraction, creation and retention. Do museums create jobs, and foster increased tax revenues? Are neighborhoods with a greater concentration of cultural assets more likely to attract job-generating corporations? And where do entrepreneurs fit in? Do more creative assets equal more start-ups? We’ll attempt to answer these questions and more next week.