(Source: The Philippine Star | 12 November 2016)
Something exciting is happening at the Tutuban station. More specifically, at the Tutuban Center Mall, which stands right there where the original railway station was located, at the corner of C.M. Recto and R. Antonio streets in Binondo. The retail complex occupies only about a third of the 20-hectare property in the heart of Manila. It is right next to the PNR station. This is also where the North-South Project Transfer Station is planned to interconnect with the Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT2) West Station.
“It’s an opportunity for us. There’s much room for expansion and it’s very accessible to the public,” says Junie Jalandoni, president of Prime Orion Properties Inc., owner of the Tutuban retail complex.
The Tutuban Center Mall, which was inaugurated in 1994, had gained the reputation, through the years as a “bargain hunter’s paradise.” Recently, it underwent some building improvements, which included upgraded exteriors and renovated interiors, repainting, improved signage, LED lighting and air conditioning.
“In the last six months, our focus was on improving the basic requirements, such as the restrooms as well as parking space,” Jalandoni shares. There’s now additional 150 parking slots in the Recto parking area as well as a new ticket booth, the better to serve the increasing number of shoppers as the holiday season approaches. Other enhancements include customer service booths, security and housekeeping services. The food court was renovated and the new Prime Block Clusters on level three of the Prime Block building was introduced.
“With 60,000 sq.m’s gross leasable space, we have added new tenants to the existing ones. Some of those who have left before have come back,” says Rowena Tomeldan, president of Tutuban Properties Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Prime Orion Properties of which Ayala Land has acquired 51-percent majority stake. “We have the wholesalers as well as regular retailers such as Bench, National Book Store, and Robinsons Department Store and Supermarket. There are over 500 establishments and we are ready to double that.”
“Merchandise zoning has been improved in the Prime Block building so that shoppers will find everything they want and need in each area,” Norie Raniel, Tutuban Center deputy general manager and head of operations, noted. The wholesalers offer general merchandise such as fabrics and textiles, curtains and supplies, RTW and accessories, shoes and bags, ribbons, modista and tailor supplies such as those found in the very popular Michelle’s Ribbon and Lace Center. “Big department stores buy from here,” Tomeldan remarks.
The Prime Block Clusters is anchored by Anding’s Toys and Flowers Inc., which carries other items in addition to flowers and toys, such as garden accessories, holiday décor and party favors. Malou Salvador Yulit, together with her three siblings, manages the store which carries their mother’s name, Alejandra Salvador, who started the store 20 years ago in Divisoria market. It has since grown and now occupies 400 sq. m. or about 18 stalls in Tutuban. It counts large malls and merchants among its clients.
Besides shopping, Tutuban Center may also soon be earning a reputation for being a popular food haven. The new and more spacious food court is located at the Main Station where you can find popular food offerings such as Kikiam in Ilaya as well as Little Manila by Baliwag. Opening soon are more dining choices such as El Presidente of Binondo, Kamay Kainan, Reyes Barbecue, Eng Ho Café & Deli, and King’s Bakeshop.“We hope to get more of the Binondo restaurants and establishments to open here,” Jalandoni says.
The Main Station also houses the mall’s retail shops and service stores. The building was part of the original Tutuban Railway Central Station dating back to 1892. The heritage elements of the original railway station have been preserved. Along the interiors are more than century-old iron Corinthian columns. The original trusses were restored and re-painted with a shade of green based on “the heritage color palette.” Building features such as the brick walls were retained and lighting was improved to highlight façade details.
In the plaza right across from the Tutuban Center Main Station is a monument to the Father of the Philippine Revolution, Andres Bonifacio, who was born in this district. “There is history here,” Raniel remarks. “While other malls are just functional, we have heritage.” Part of the plan is to put up a museum. On display in the East Loop of the mall are 12 large canvas artworks depicting scenes from the hero’s life, authenticated by the National Historical Commission.
The Tutuban Center has built relationships over generations of merchants and shoppers, and it has every intention to continue the tradition, even while it makes improvements in keeping with the times.
“It’s very promising. Nakaka-excite,” Tomeldan says. “Our vision is for Tutuban Center to be a wholesale and retail center. We will keep its positioning. The key is affordable pricing, which it has always been known for. That will not change.”
– By Julie Cabatit-Alegre