Car park on the rise


    A MALL within the University?

    Not exactly. But the newly constructed car park does stand out with a very postmodern architecture in a very classic school. What was once an inconspicuous two-story concrete compound is now a semi-commercial site bustling with people.

    The renovated car park with all its food kiosks and more parking space may be a welcome sight for some people, but it has also been the subject of criticism and queries from students and faculty members.

    With the ever-increasing number of vehicles in the University each year, a doubt is raised as to the building’s capacity to house all of them. Also, with its architectural style, the building may not blend well with most UST structures. And with other large buildings also under construction like the Tan Yan Kee Student Center and the hospital’s Cancer Institute, there is a general feeling that the University has become too congested. 

    Terms of agreement

    In February 2004, UST signed a build-operate-transfer (BOT) agreement with the Makati-based Selegna Holdings Corporation (SHC) to construct a multi-deck automated car park to make room for the hundreds of vehicles that enter the campus daily.

    Under the agreement, SHC will shoulder all the construction expenses and operate it for the next 15 years before it turns over the management to the University.

    The contract states, however, that the University will receive P1 million annually and 10 per cent of the revenue from the commercial leasing since the old car park that SHC demolished had an annual income of the same amount.

    Initially, the BOT contract had a duration of 10 years only, but was extended to 15 years after UST proposed to construct a third floor for parking and a fourth floor that would house the College of Accountancy.

    The four-story, 2.64-hectare building was named the Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy with Multi-Deck Parking (AMV-MDP), in honor of the Thomasian and co-founder of the SGV & Co. accounting firm who greatly contributed to its construction.

    UST signed a memorandum of agreement with Velayo in November 2004 to finance the construction and separate the College of Accountancy from the College of Commerce.

    A car park first

    According to SHC’s JP Cabrera, who also supervises the AMV-MDP building, the multi-deck parking was constructed because the old UST carpark was not enough to accommodate the parking needs of the University and hospital as it only had 200 parking slots.

    The old car park was also manually operated wherein a clock register was used to time the cars that are parked and determine the amount to be paid. The amount was manually computed by the attending personnel when the vehicles leave.

    In the new automated car park, the attending personnel inputs the car’s plate number into a computer which releases a bar-coded parking ticket. When the vehicle leaves, the ticket is flashed into a laser detector for the computer to automatically determine the parking fee, including the value-added tax.

    Cabrera, after consulting UST officials, sought a multi-million peso loan from Metrobank to fund the project and make the construction of the new car park possible.

    “Initially, we had a hard time asking for a loan, but after submitting the feasibility study we made about the old UST car park, they finally agreed,” Cabrera said.

    The new multi-deck car park, which will be fully constructed by Feb. 2012, now has 360 parking slots, including a 2000-square-meter, two-level foodcourt, which houses major fastfood chains and stalls such as McDonald’s, KFC, Dimsum and Dumplings, Ice Monster, etc.

    “The new car park provides a great deal of convenience to UST. It eliminated scenes like the long queues of cars along Quezon Drive,” Cabrera told the Varsitarian.

    The AMV-MDP will also house more food businesses such as Frio Mixx, Hot Shot Burgers, a photo studio, and a communication center.

    They were added to the new pay parking for additional revenue after SHC, during talks with Metrobank, realized that the carpark alone would not sustain the loan.  

    Eye-catching or an eyesore?

    One of the noticeable things about the AMV-MDP is its vibrant design that stands out on a campus filled with buildings that are mostly classically and neo-classically designed.

    Cabrera said the car park’s designers, UST master planner RECIO N CASAS, an architecture group composed of UST Architecture alumni, wanted people to view the structure as an ordinary modern building and not as a car park.

    The modern design is also meant to kick off the University’s 400th year anniversary in 2011 and as an act of modernization, Cabrera said.

    College of Architecture dean Chona Ponce, however, said the modern style of the AMV-MDP does not blend with the old buildings around the University.

    “Since UST is more known as a heritage landmark, modern buildings should complement the older ones,” Ponce told the Varsitarian. “The (pay parking) does not blend with the other UST buildings in terms of motif, style, and material.”

    Ponce noted that the similar post-war designs among the UST Hospital, Education building and Engineering building are complementary to one another. She added that this is also true of the Beato Angelico and the Thomas Aquainas Research Complex’s neo-classical architectural design, which is a combination of old and new designs. These two buildings, according to Ponce, somehow complement the classical design of the Main Building.

    Moreover, Ponce said in a complex such as UST, the most important building should be highlighted.

    “In this case, the Main Building should be the highlight of the entire University. However, the car park’s construction draws a lot of attention since it is near the front entrance of UST, and so the focus on the design of the Main Building is somehow lessened,” Ponce said.

    Money matters

    While some feel that the parking rates are expensive for students, the AMV-MDP administration maintains that, like any business establishment, the car park needs funding to maintain operations.

    Before 12 noon, the carpark, which houses an average of 1,500 vehicles daily, charges a fee of P25 for the first two hours and P10 for every succeeding hour. After that, Thomasian students get to enjoy a fee of P20 for five hours and P10 for every hour thereafter while outsiders are charged P25 for the first two hours and P10 every succeeding hour. Overnight parkers pay a flat rate of P60, and there is a P5 charge for every succeeding hour from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day.

    “The rates are quite reasonable; no other car park in Metro Manila has such rates,” Cabrera said. “Besides, we just retained the old parking rates upon the appeal of the UST administration.”

    The commercial leasing also plays a big role in revenue collection as the AMV-MDP charges a monthly fee of P600 per square meter. The AMV-MDP receives a total of P1.2 million per month from its tenant-businesses.

    According to Cabrera, the location of the AMV-MDP is ideal for a lot of businesses because it is within a heavily populated campus. He claims that he receives at least 20 calls a day from interested business establishments.

    But because the loan that SHC obtained from Metrobank is an escrow account, all revenue collected daily is deposited at the UST Security Bank and is transferred to Metrobank afterwards. This routine will continue until the loan is fully paid.

    “In short, as of the moment, we do not receive anything yet except for the operating costs,” Cabrera said.

    The corporation’s target year for the complete payment of the loan is by February 2011, or in its 11th year of operation.

    Securing the fort

    One of the important factors that contribute to a parking business’ success is the guarantee that cars parked inside are safe.

    Cabrera said the car park is trying its best to ensure its customers’ safety and security.

    But this early, that assurance is already being put to the test.

    A male suspect was caught inside the building after stealing the bag of a student inside KFC last Jan. 12.

    Another male suspect attempted to board an unlocked vehicle with a student inside. The plan, fortunately, was thwarted when the student quickly locked the door before the suspect made a move.

    The same incident happened to two female AB students last August when a man dressed in white shirt tried to enter their vehicle through the passenger seat door.

    Despite these, Cabrera maintained that the AMV-MDP is not liable for any incident within the parking area.

    “Kahit saan ka pumunta, wala kang makikitang nagbibigay ng 100 per cent service,” he added. “Yung labas nga hindi na ma-screen ng UST (from criminals), kami pa kaya dito sa loob.

    Cabrera said the parking fee is merely for the use of parking space and not for security.

    “Kahit saan namang pay parking, ganun ang policy,” he stressed.

    While Cabrera laments the occurrence of such incidents, he maintained that the building administration is trying to make the AMV-MDP crime-free. When crime incidents happen, he immediately coordinates with the UST Security to fix security lapses.

    The carpark currently has four security guards from the Spartan Security Agency, SHC’s hired agency, assigned from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and two from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. An SHC civilian operative has also been assigned to patrol the area.

    The eight-man maintenance personnel have also been instructed to help in security and report any suspicious activity inside the car park.

    Aside from the security woes, because most of the UST buildings rely on a single line of electricity, the car park’s tenants also fear that an internal power failure may cripple their operations.

    He said he already asked the UST Buildings and Grounds to provide the AMV-MDP with reserve electrical power to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

    Cabrera also intends to rush the construction of the “No Smoking” signs as certain students have been caught smoking inside the building.

    “The University’s rules and laws will also apply inside the car park. There are no exceptions. Our security guards and maintenance personnel are making sure that no law is disobeyed,” Cabrera said.

    Maintaining business

    Cabrera said that despite these setbacks, the car park has been running quite smoothly since it opened in September 2004.

    “We are already 100 per cent operational. The building has served 450,000 cars—a very significant figure,” he said.

    But while the car park is enjoying a considerable amount of s uccess, Cabrera only sees that things could still be better.

    “We want our earnings to increase annually and improve our services to maintain a sustainable level of development.”