The new year spells greater prospects for the luxury property maverick as it embarks on its most ambitious project yet

With the country’s luxury property market suddenly on the upswing, it isn’t surprising to see both big and small developers coming up with their respective versions of “luxurious” projects to entice the millionaire market.

But what exactly is “real luxury” and how do you spot the real deal amidst a handful of aspirants?

According to Valerie Soliven, senior vice president for sales and marketing of luxury property developer Rockwell Land Corp. (Rockwell), it is all in the details. “It’s always innovation, knowing what people like…it has to be top of the line when it comes to appointments and everything you see [in the property],” Soliven says. Density, she adds, is also fundamental: “You can’t claim luxury if you’re so dense. Rockwell is very conscious of the density issue, the landscaping, and that’s one of the things that sets us apart.”

Indeed, if there’s one property developer with a proven track record of creating bold and ambitious condominium projects, it’s Rockwell. “Luxury properties hardly go down in terms of value—they are always rented out and command high yields because people want to live in that property. I think over the years Rockwell has proven that, in terms of historical increases in capital value, and increases in or if not steady yields that are better than the rest of the market,” Soliven shares.

It’s exactly why the company keeps on attracting both new and repeat buyers. Compared to the Makati CBD average yield of six percent, a condo unit in Rockwell fetches yields as high as seven to 12 percent. “Seven [percent] if it’s not furnished and you didn’t fix it so much. But if it’s furnished and you really fix it, yields can go as high as 12 percent,” puts in Soliven. The same can be said of its property in Ortigas, The Grove, which yields P700 per square meter, compared to the CBD average of P450 to P500. “It’s very encouraging,” shares Soliven.

The Proscenium: A New Generation of Rockwell
In just 17 years, the Lopez-owned company has managed to transform the Makati skyline. This year, it ups the ante with its most ambitious project yet: the Proscenium. Launched late last year, the Proscenium sets a 3.6-hectare stage for a higher level of prestige for the next generation Rockwell. “Staying true to Rockwell’s reputation of creating not only buildings, but works of art, the Proscenium promises to be like no other in the intricacy of its design and its promise of delivering luxury,” Soliven says.

Designed by the most prominent names in both the local and global arena of architecture and design, the Proscenium is a collaboration between internationally acclaimed architect Carlos Ott—famous for designing the L’Opera de la Bastille in Paris and the Burj Al Arab in Dubai—and Rockwell’s local partners Pimentel, Simbulan, Rodriguez, and Partners (PRSP) and interior designers Butch Valdez and Alice Erfe. In an interview last year with Business Agenda, Ott joked, “When Rockwell hired me, they have to bite the bullet and know that they may end up with a funny-looking building. Because if they expect a shoebox building from me, they will be disappointed.”

True enough, the Proscenium bears Ott’s signature of creating iconic and sculptural designs. “Carlos’ works are timeless. It’s the kind of architecture that will stay 10, 20, 30 years from now,” says Soliven, adding that for this particular project, Rockwell is putting a primer on space. With cuts as big as 300 sqm and an average of only four units per floor for the first two towers, the Proscenium does away with issues of limited space usually associated with condominium living. “What we’re doing, for example, is opening up the balcony, such that it becomes an extension of your living room; it’s like your lanai. So even if you’re way up there, you enjoy the view, the ventilation, you don’t have to turn on your aircon all the time because air and light will be flowing in,” Soliven shares.

More than offering exception residential units, Carlos Ott’s mastery in creating theaters and world-famous opera houses will be visible in the Proscenium. “A state-of-the-art 600-seater theater will be standing as an anchor within the property. It will be home to world-class cultural performances and will bring an interesting twist to the daily routine of the Rockwell resident,” informs Soliven. She adds that a retail row lined with unique luxury brands and fine-dining establishments will complete the property.

205 Santolan: Tapping An Underserved Market
Last May, Rockwell surprised the local market by venturing into the low-rise property segment when it launched 205 Santolan by Rockwell, an exclusive residential horizontal community in Quezon City. “We realized it was an underserved market,” says Soliven. “Big property developers hardly go into townhouse developments because the margins are not as big. You don’t get a lot of profit out of very low-density projects. But we realized that there is that market—our market—that prefers townhouse developments because they don’t like verticals for some reason,” she says.

As with most of its properties, Rockwell’s 205 Santolan caters to a market that’s “willing to pay a little more to be able to enjoy the quality that they want,” says Soliven. “I think, more than anything, what draws our market to us is the kind of lifestyle living that we are able to provide. When we design our properties, there’s always that something extra…for 205 Santolan, we’ve made sure that the roads are wider than usual, that there’s a nice entrance, nice arrival, more than ample parking, and we provide not just a pool but a real clubhouse with an array of facilities. And we give you access to the Rockwell Club. Even when they’re in Quezon City, they can still enjoy the Rockwell lifestyle when they drop by the Rockwell Club in Makati and even in The Grove,” she adds.

It is this careful attention to what their market wants that enables the company to enjoy record sales. “We launched 205 Santolan in May, and not even in a grand way…but in less than a year, we only have 19 out of the 114 townhouses left. We’re expecting to sell everything by the first quarter of 2013,” reports Soliven.

Bullish On Philippine Property
With all these impressive developments coming on line, not just within Rockwell but the rest of the metro, the question remains whether the luxury property market is sustainable. According to Soliven, it definitely is. “We’ve been watching and watching that cycle, because normally it’s a six-year run at most, and then it dips already and moves into a six-year down cycle. But this up cycle has been going on for 10 years, since 2002. We thought 2008 would be the start of the down cycle, but so far it’s still going up,” she shares.

With the country’s sound economic fundamentals, Rockwell is still “very bullish when it comes to the next two years because of the demand,” says Soliven. “The per capita income of people now is so much higher in dollar terms compared to how it was before. Remittances are still growing at five, 10 percent per year. There’s the big BPO industry that’s also growing fast. Interest rates are at an all-time low at 5.5 percent; inflation is down to three percent. Foreign investments are coming in and our credit ratings are being upgraded. I think these are all sustaining the property market, so how can you say that it’s going to go down, at least in the short-term? But,” she amends, “we’re still very cautious—and conscious. We’re making a run for it in the next two to four years. The company is really expanding and growing.”


Published in the Business Agenda section of the January 21, 2013 edition of Manila Bulletin