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South Road Properties will soon redefine the city’s landscape with a pioneering, multi-use development hub

A  slew of trophy projects is expected to cement Cebu’s reputation as a metropolis worthy of rivaling Manila as an investment magnet.

Joel Binamira, a banker-turned-food entrepreneur, observes: “Cebu is not just the Philippines’ second major city. It’s now a commercial and lifestyle hub in its own right.”

Taking Cebu to a whole new development level is South Road Properties (SRP), the 300-hectare reclaimed site along the city’s east coast and a short distance from the central business district. Pioneering investors in the project include SM Prime Holdings, Filinvest Land and Bigfoot Studios.

This September, SM Prime is poised to open SM Seaside City Cebu, kicking off with the biggest shopping mall in the Visayas and Mindanao with a gross floor area of 25 hectares and featuring a whopping 800 stores and dining outlets. Future components of the Php25-billion property include a convention center, hotels, residential condominiums, a school and a hospital.

“The project brings a lot of excitement to local and international tenants,” SM Prime Holdings Vice-President for Visayas and Mindanao Marissa Fernan was quoted saying in the local press. Marks & Spencer and Bench are among the bevy of well-known brands to join SM Seaside’s tenant roster.

Conceived by Arquitectonica, an international architecture, interior design and planning firm from Miami, Florida, SM Seaside stands out with its nautilus-inspired design of expanding, concentric arcs from a central
multi-purpose space.

According to Fernan, local creativity will be celebrated by the proliferation of art in the public areas of the shopping mall’s Sky Garden.

SM Seaside consists of a four-level, circular-shaped, world-class retail mall with multiple anchors, including the two-story SM Department Store and SM Hypermart, a five-theater Cineplex and IMAX Theatre, an 18-lane SM Bowling and Amusement Center and a food court surrounding an ice skating rink.
Retail shops will occupy the outer arc of the mall on the ground floor. The section will include a furniture zone as well as a fashion boulevard to showcase the rich talent of Cebu’s many local designers.

Serving as a new landmark for the city is the 150 Viewing Tower, providing panoramic vistas of Cebu City.

Hans T. Sy, SM Prime Holdings president, says they were not just building a mere shopping mall but a “destination mall”. When completed, it would be the fourth biggest mall in the world. With SM Seaside’s oceanfront location, Sy says every effort was made to build a disaster-resilient complex.

In another development, a consortium, formed by SM Prime Holdings and Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), recently won a 26-hectare portion of SRP bid out by the Cebu City Government. Together, the property giants will cooperate on a joint mixed-use master plan.

Capitalizing on Cebuanos’ growing affluence, the Gokongwei-led Robinsons Galleria Cebu will launch in October on a 4.7-hectare lot along General Maxilom Avenue in the North Reclamation Area. This is part of a Php6-billion mixed-use development that includes three residential condominium blocks and the 200-room Summit Hotel. Robinsons Galleria Cebu is the second complex using the flagship brand, following Robinsons Galleria Manila and the company’s third shopping mall in Cebu. Anchor tenants, which include Robinsons Department Store, Robinsons Supermarket, True Value, Robinsons Appliances, Daiso and Toys R Us, will operate in a garden-like ambiance. There will also be six cinemas, two of which will be 3D and will feature VIP seating.

Not to be outdone, Ayala Center, Cebu’s original lifestyle hub in the Cebu Business Park, recently completed its retail master plan with a Php2.8-billion expansion. The four-level annex, which opened at the southeastern side of the complex, contains 155 first-in-Cebu outlets such as Fred Perry, Sunglass Hut, Terra & Agua, Yosi Samra, Petit Bateau, Alessi, Onitsuka Tiger, H.E. by Mango, Superdry, bow&wow, YakPak, EverNew, Muji, Toys R Us, F&F, Philip Stein, Claire’s and British India, as well as specialty stores like Projekt, Classic Hifi, Ulli’s Streets of Asia, Rainbow Tots, Digital Village, The Suite Room, Idea Italia and Fudge. Rustan’s Department Store occupies three stories in the new wing.
A second Ayala Center is currently being built in Talisay City.

Realizing a visitor’s first impression of Cebu is crucial, the local government finally set in motion last June 30 the construction of Mactan Cebu International’s new terminal. Targeted for completion by February 2018, the facility is envisioned as a world-class “Resort Airport”. Travellers, according to promotional materials for the Php17.5- billion project, will be treated not merely as “passengers” but as “guests”, much like in a five-star holiday resort.

In the first phase, the terminal will span 50,000 m2, a figure likely to be expanded in the future. It will have 48 check-in counters, expandable to 72. There will be seven passenger boarding bridges, which can be expanded to 12.

Cebu Pacific (Cebu Air Inc.), the budget airline whose name derives from the original family base of its founder, tycoon John Gokongwei, Jr., has surpassed all expectations since starting operations in 1996 from three hubs in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao. Thanks to its “low fare, great value” scheme, many Filipinos have been able to travel to regional and long-haul destinations. Cebuanos enjoy direct Cebu-Hong Kong and Cebu-Singapore flights. Flying to Manila, they can access the Middle East and Sydney, Australia, and hopefully soon, Hawaii and Guam.

Currently headed by Chief Executive Officer and President Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific now operates a fleet of 55 aircraft: 10 Airbus A319, 31 Airbus A320, six Airbus A330 and eight ATR 72-500 aircraft. The company has one of the most modern aircraft fleets in the world, and will add more to this by taking delivery of seven more brand-new Airbus A320, 30 Airbus A321neo, and 16 ATR 72-600 aircraft between 2015 and 2021.

Years ago, Cebuanos were considered a frugal lot, a market that rarely splurged or dined out. But times have changed, judging by the number of strip malls that have mushroomed across the city. One of the newest, Streetscape in the swanky Maria Luisa enclave, boasts restaurants offering a smorgasbord of cuisines, including authentic Neapolitan pizza at La Nostra Pizzeria Napoletana.

The good life is indeed fast catching on in Cebu.