Proposed multi-use parking building at Burnham Auditorium site draws mixed reactions

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BAGUIO CITY – The proposed construction of a multi-level parking building with concession areas at the site of the former city auditorium at Burnham Park drew mixed reactions during the initial public consultation conducted by the City Council last March 21.

Some speakers expressed agreement saying the site is more suited to the purpose and a better alternative to the Ganza area and the Melvin Jones while others frowned upon the proposal maintaining that commercialization does no good for the park.

Councilor Edgar Avila, chair of the committee on urban planning, lands and housing and co-author of the proposed ordinance authorizing the implementation of the master development plan for Burnham Park particularly the site of the former city auditorium and the new library grounds and parks management, said the proposal will be subjected to continuing consultations with the various sectors with the next to be held on April 11, 9 a.m. at the Sangguniang Panlungsod Session Hall.

“We encourage the various sectors to present their views and preferably their proposed alternative solutions to the city’s traffic problem,” Avila said.

He said the proposed ordinance which he co-authors with Councilors Elmer Datuin and Mylen Yaranon is their answer to the people’s opposition to earlier parking proposals at Melvin Jones, Ganza and other vulnerable portions of Burnham Park.

“And this one is backed up by an independent study conducted by the University of the Cordilleras,” he said.
UC Architecture Department Head Arch. Robert Romero who presented the Burnham Park Master Development Plan they conducted in 2010 and adopted by the City Government through then Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. said the study was done extensively through research, surveys and consultations with the various sectors and age groups.

He said it yielded results that most park goers prefer having amenities such as parking, eatery, souvenir shops nearby and that the particular area which measures 1.3 hectares has been found to be most suited for the planned mixed use structure.

He however said that the study adhered to the concept of making the Burnham Park “walkable” so that the closure of all roads within the park had been included in the plan with only the road connecting Kisad Road to Harrison Road will be kept open to access the multi-use building.

During the hearing, the XRC Mall Developer Inc. who submitted an unsolicited proposal for the area last Jan. 5 presented their plan to construct a mixed use structure with three-floor basement allotted for podium parking that can accommodate 40-50 tourist buses and 1,200-1,500 cars and six floors for various concessions such as a commercial mall, pasalubong center and a hotel with an event hall, auditorium and possibly a library with an investment of P800 million.

They said the designs will incorporate the local culture and will adopt the green architecture concept with solar panels, passive cooling or natural ventilation, water collection and recycling and a materials recovery facility.
They assured that no trees will be cut in the area.

The project proposed to be done under the private-public partnership (PPP) mode of development will be considered by the City Government subject to procedures.

During the open forum, freelance journalist Nonnette Bennett said the project can help solve the traffic problem but sought assurance that the developer pursues the promised green architecture concept and add landscaping and tree-planting projects at Burnham Park.

Lawyer Moises Cating said it is high time to implement something “doable” in the area which had been eyed for such projects before but had remained idle for many years now.

Homemaker Guia Limpin initially opposed the proposal saying the City does not need another mall more so that it would be located at the heart of the business district as it will just worsen the traffic congestion in the area but later acknowledged that the project was a good idea as long as the Lake Drive and other interior roads will be closed to traffic and “pedestrianized” as assured by Councilor Avila.

Old-timers Resty Refuerzo and urban planner Arch. Joseph Alabanza thumbed down any construction at the park and batted for its preservation as a “formal garden” where people, not cars, converge to rest and commune with nature.

The proposed ordinance is still on second reading for deliberation by the Body. – Aileen P. Refuerzo

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