Thursday, July 28, 2011

An architectural gem fit for a ‘queen’

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer Visayas First\

ILOILO CITY, Philippines—Ilonggo media tycoon Rogelio Florete is not known to shirk from challenges and threats.

In the dying years of the Marcos dictatorship, Florete’s radio network—Bombo Radyo Philippines—faced off the regime’s massive propaganda machinery and delivered independent and factual news especially during the Edsa People Power I event.

In 1989, suspected communist rebels kidnapped and held Florete in the mountains of Negros Occidental for 72 days.

Now 71, Florete has not showed signs of slowing down.

As head of the Florete Group of Companies, he has steered and strengthened his business empire through the years. The group has interests in broadcast media (Bombo Radyo), banking (Queenbank), real estate (Florete Land and Florete Properties Management), agri-business, and the pawnshop and jewelry trade (R. Florete Pawnshop and Jewelry).

Florete recently added Plazuela de Iloilo—Iloilo City’s newest business and recreation center and architectural landmark—to his investment cap.

Situated on Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Ave., beside SM City Iloilo, the fast-rising commercial and entertainment strip offers the amenities of a modern business complex and a natural al fresco experience.

Plazuela boasts a total land area of 20,977 square meters including the 4,500-square-meter Plaza Mayor—an open area with koi ponds on both ends.

The plaza is an ideal place for people to stroll. Events and shows like conventions, bazaars and concerts may also be held there.

Three two-story buildings with Spanish-Italian inspired designs are named after famous Spanish cities—Avila, Barcelona and Madrid.

The buildings have a total floor space of 8,700 square meters. On the ground floor, there are restaurants, retail stores, shops, service outlets, karts and kiosks. The second floor is ideal for business process outsourcing (BPO) firms.

Plazuela de Iloilo has a spacious parking space that can accommodate over 100 cars and offers full power backup during power interruptions through its two power generators.

With a two-meter elevation from street level, the complex will not be prone to flooding, designers claim.

The Plazuela held its soft opening late last year. Since then, thousands of Ilonggos and tourists have visited the complex, attracted by its architectural design and spacious open areas.

It now hosts a bar, service shops, children’s play center and popular restaurants serving seafood, Italian, Japanese and Thai cuisines.

Florete says this investment is his way of “giving back” to Iloilo and Ilonggos.

“Iloilo has been kind to my family, and we want to build an edifice that Ilonggos can be proud of, one that does justice to this city,” he says.

It was during a meeting with Ilonggo businessmen based in Manila four years ago that the seed of Plazuela was planted in Florete’s mind.

“We agreed that we should help Iloilo regain its title as ‘Queen City of the South’ by tapping our resources and investing in businesses that will spur economic development and create more jobs and opportunities for our fellow Ilonggos,” Florete says.

To this end, his family decided to develop part of their 50-hectare property on the diversion road.

Design of Plazuela de Iloilo was in the hands of internationally renowned architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. It took nearly two years to finalize the design, having undergone several revisions due to Florete’s meticulous attention to detail.

Florete said the architectural design was inspired by Iloilo’s rich historical heritage as reflected in the Spanish and American colonial houses in the city.

Florete says his family’s investment in the complex has been “substantial,” adding that the building’s character has more than made up for the cost.

“It would have been much cheaper to build a box-like building and maximize space. But we want to have something that will inspire and encourage more development in the general area,” he said.

The investment also reflects Florete’s optimism in Iloilo’s economic growth.

The increasing number of tourists and heightened economic activity have also raised demand for more restaurants and business centers, he says.

Florete expects more development to take place around Plazuela de Iloilo.


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