By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
Tutuban Center is currently undergoing a redevelopment and massive expansion project. The facelift of the metro’s shopping mecca, and the pioneer of the tiangge phenomenon, is underway and in full swing.
In 1989, Tutuban Center redefined commerce and trade in the highly challenging Divisoria-Binondo district by positioning itself as a premiere wholesale/retail shopping central and community mall complex that provided consumers with the best value-for-money goods and products as well as first-rate customer shopping convenience.
To date, the competition level on the Divisoria-Binondo district is at its highest with four major (168, Benison’s, New Divisoria Center Condominium and Divisoria Mall) and four minor (999 Puregold, City Place Center, Meisic Mall 11/88 and Lucky Chinatown) players. “The prime block, where the Center Mall Bldg. is located, is bounded by Recto, Dagupan and Antonio Rivera streets. All of the commercial buildings within are connected to seven parking floors. We want to enhance the Art Deco look through a ‘cosmetic refurbishment’ to make it brighter,” apprised Ernie M. Hilario Jr., AVP for business development properties.
The main market for the wholesale and retail component of Tutuban Center are the small & medium enterprises (SMEs) of Metro Manila and nearby provinces. These include the major trading spots like Monumento, Balintawak, NEPA Q-Mart, Pasig, Baclaran and Muntinlupa.
Some SMEs from Bulacan, Pampanga, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal are doing and getting business merchandise from there. The potential new market for the wholesale/retail component are coming from Mega Manila and beyond via comprehensive public transport system. With the rehabilitated and energized Philippine National Railways (PNR) train system plus other forms of public conveyances servicing all routes, connection to major areas in Luzon Island becomes imminent.
The master plan of the 22-hectare PNR lot incorporates an inter-modal transport terminal leading to the Tutuban Center property. With the possible interconnection to the LRT-2 line, PNR will become an effective hub for an interchange of commuters around the whole of Luzon. This will take the required elements for a grand PNR terminal operation. “The new railway system will operate tranvia buses for a stronger tourism pull. It will have as many resting nooks for visitors,” he added.
Being a recognized tourist destination by the Department of Tourism, the designed tourism component within the mall premises will further enhance the PNR property as it promotes local tourist traffic.
Communities within a 2-kilometer radius now serve as main market for the commercial mall of Tutuban Center. And with the fast-changing lifestyle patterns of shoppers and dwellers in the condominiums around the area, top activities now include dining, grocery visits, and entertainment. The new, albeit not fully tapped, market for the commercial malls are the transient students and workers as well as hobbyists (niche market) from beyond the 2-kilometer radius with specific needs and wants.
A tropical design will be the architectural theme for the entire project. Renovations and refurbishment activities are being scheduled for the existing buildings within the center as additional features are introduced to each edifice. A promenade is now integrated in Cluster Bldgs. 1 and 2, specifically where the railroad track is located. The NHI-protected Bonifacio monument fronting the Tutuban Mall will also be spruced up. “The Tutuban Center Mall façade and Bonifacio Plaza will be retained. The original columns of the PNR will likewise be retained for a historical ambiance.”
A polycarbonate roof cover is installed at the Loop Road for an all-weather operation of the night market. Pedestrian connector walkways from the Center Mall to the other buildings are installed to improve traffic flow. Also, an iconic Sky Garden is developed at the roof deck of the Prime Block Bldg. with al fresco restaurants, cafes, specialty stores and shops. “The scenic elevator that will service the Prime Block building will open unto the Sky Garden at the topmost floor. The cinema level, on the other hand, will have a virtual zoo theme this Christmas.”
After all the shopping and dining, tourists can recharge their energies at the 3-star Orion Hotel. Like other buildings in Area 1, the businessmen’s hotel is also connected to the Center Mall through a pedestrian walkway that’s likewise bridged to an adjacent parking bay. “The completion of Orion Hotel will wrap up in the early part of the fourth quarter this year. Our launch date is slated on Nov. 30th. Orion is totally a local brand and accredited by the DoT as a 3-star hotel.
“The new hotel will have 41 rooms; 13 18-sq-m standard units and 27 26-sq-m de luxe rooms. We converted the existing wing of our prime block. The original idea was for a dormitory for students. When the security issue between here and the university block was tackled, the idea was entirely scrapped,” informed the ever-smiling AVP.
Tutuban Center hopes to be the first and only 24/7 commercial center in the country and be the local counterpart of world-famous bargain sites in Asia like Mongkok in Hong Kong, the Pasa Malam in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
It’s the Pari-an scene altogether; but this time, brought forward to the foibles of 21st century trading.