In the 2019 Q1 report of Colliers International, vacancy for office space in major business districts such as Makati Central Business District (Makati CBD) is between 0.6 and 1.4 percent. The low availability of space has been constricting business expansion. To meet the appetite for new space, the opportunity to expedite office space completion and redevelopment of older buildings with new options for customizable floor plates is timely.
At the nondescript corner of Ayala Avenue and V.A. Rufino Street, right where one exits from the pedestrian underpass, gleams NEX Tower, the newest high rise office development in the financial district.
Nestled between buildings, NEX Tower comes upon you on Ayala Avenue quite unexpectedly. With its unobtrusive glass doors and naturally lit lobby this afternoon, I almost missed it as a car passenger. I had to take the Rufino corner from the Eastbound lane, and turn Westward on dela Rosa Street to Access Road 3. Past the newer establishments on this side of Legazpi Village and into a one-way street. From this vantage point, one experiences a sense of arrival as the fine points of landscaping lift the eyes up to the modern architectural lines of this side of the façade. Lines leaning into each other, making the air feel intimate yet spacious. To steal from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “And palm to palm is holy palmer’s kiss.”
Ricardo “Chut” Cuerva, managing director of Nova Group, personally took us on a tour of the new premier address. “We wanted to create a visible connection between Ayala Avenue and Dela Rosa Street. The lobby is four stories with glass panels and a skylight to achieve daylight efficiency. A massive green wall filled with indigenous plants carry oxygen into this space.”
At opposite sides of the lobby are commissioned pieces by artist Bernardo Pacquing and photographer Frank Callahan. They alternately warm and brighten up their respective vantage points.
Nova Group is in the unique position to act as developer and contractor on their projects. With 30 years’ experience in constructing residential developments, Chut is right in the thick of the movement towards the integration of domestic qualities into the workspace. “As we spend more time in our work spaces, there is a preference for livable furniture, softer lighting, warmer spaces for productivity.”
In 2002, armed with a degree in architecture from SCI-Arc, an avant-garde school in Los Angeles where luminaries Frank Genhry and Thom Mayne taught, and a masteral degree in Real Estate Development at Columbia University, Chut was ready to grow Nova Group from singular tower developments to townships and co-developments at Century City in Makati, Azure in Bicutan, Acqua in Mandaluyong and Commonwealth in Quezon City.
By 2014, the Nova Group ventured into office developments. With the acquisition of the Ayala Avenue property, plans were immediately underway to build NEX Tower. “Makati is still the premier address, and remains a great place to live and work. It is accessible and the quality of life remains unequalled.”
NEX Tower is 28 floors including a roof deck. As a premium grade office building, the occupant density is maintained at a person-to-area ratio of 1:8 square meters. This low density ensures that indoor air quality remains healthy for a working environment. A typical gross floor area is approximately 1,400 square meters. Parking, as mandated by the National Building Code (NBC), is maintained at a parking slot-to-leasable floor area ratio of 1:100 square meters.
At the end of Q1 2019, Colliers International reported that Metro Manila’s leasable office stock rose to 11.1 million square meters following the completion of about 151,500 square meters of new office space. Makati CBD accounted for 48 percent of new office space with NEX Tower contributing 44 percent to the inventory. Absorption is positive, and is attributed to the expected business categories. “Among the notable deals we recorded were traditional occupiers such as insurance, financial technology (fintech) as well as engineering and construction firms,” the report adds.
Chut shares, “NEX Tower is leased out at 60 percent. Financial institutions the likes of Manulife and top corporations such as JLL Philippines have moved in and are operational. We are expecting multinational corporations, FMCGs and top local companies to consider this address.” He adds, “Salcedo Auctions is one of those local businesses.”
The space is indeed a breath of fresh air in a city filled with highrise developments. The building adds a green lung to the city with its roof garden. An open space designed for serendipity breaks or a sunset cocktail party, it is accessible to all tenants.
Over the past few years, there has been a more deliberate inclination towards development of buildings for certification with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). NEX Tower is a LEED pre-certified building. It is also the only Philippine finalist in the 2019 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Asia Pacific Awards for Excellence.
Chut is proud to say that as a developer and contractor they are able to ensure excellent building quality, a space that is people-centric, and the elbowroom to work with the likes of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), world-renowned architecture firm best noted for Burj Khalifa (Dubai) and the One World Center (New York City).
When asked about future projects in the pipeline, Chut shares that emphasis remains in Makati. In the pipeline is a five-year plan for another development. Meantime, we chat about the merits of having Toby’s Estate in the building, and access to the best bananacue to be had in this part of town.