By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 6 (PNA) — SM Prime Holdings, one of the country’s premier shopping management firm, will break ground of a sprawling property at the heart of the bustling business district here next month to signal the start of the construction of an enormous structure that will house the SM City Legazpi, City Mayor Noel Rosal on Sunday said.
Set to be the next shopping and tourist destination in this fast-growing metropolis, considered as Bicol Region’s center of tourism and with its dominant presence at the central business district, SM City Legazpi will surely be a game-changer, he said.
To sit within an eight-hectare area surrounding the huge Legazpi Central Terminal complex in Barangay Bitano, the building will house the four-level SM Department Store, the SM Supermarket, SM Cyberzone, SM Appliance Center, a five-level car park, four digital cinemas and other world-class lifestyle amenities.
Its incoming presence, according to Rosal, will be in furtherance of business operations in the city of Henry Sy’s conglomerate, which now runs its huge Save More grocery store in the same site and three local branches of Banco de Oro.
Construction activities will last for a year and SM City Legazpi is expected to open in December next year, he said.
“SM is very keen on establishing here to take advantage of the favorable local business climate owing to the massive tourism and private investment promotions we have been relentlessly doing as Legazpi heads towards becoming a highly urbanized city,” the mayor told the Philippines News Agency.
Big investors are now racing with each other to locate here, especially that the city has been named as the second most livable urban locality in the country, next to Iloilo, as determined by the Most Livable City Challenge conducted last year under the auspices of the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID).
Rosal said Ayala Corp. (AC), one of the country’s business giants is already around with its partnership with Liberty Commercial Center Inc. (LCCI) in the ongoing establishment of the City Center Mall within a 1.5-hectare land owned by the city government, also at the heart of the city’s central business district.
The property has been leased by the city to LCCI of the Tans, a Filipino-Chinese family from Tabaco City, Albay which pioneered the putting up of malls here and most parts of Bicol starting way back in the late 1970s.
Also in the bandwagon of big investments in the city are the Robinsons Group of the Gokongwei family and the Gaisano Grand Group of Companies of the Cebu-based Gaisano family which now runs the Pacific Mall Legazpi, the first full-sized integrated shopping center in the Bicol Region. Robinsons, on the other hand, has its supermarket at a prime location near the City Hall and the Albay provincial Capitol as part of one of the largest and most successful chains of malls in the country today.
The Gokongwei group also acquired in 2012 from Albay Congressman Al Francis Bichara the Legazpi Savings Bank, the biggest thrift bank in Bicol based here.
With all these multibillion-peso investments and the coming of SM City, Rosal said, the city has been emerging as the new shopping and investment haven in Bicol, given its strategic location as the regional government center and center of transportation, health services and education.
The city boasts of an expansive market that extends from the entire province of Albay to the adjoining provinces of Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon, down to Samar areas.
Three other big malls are ongoing constructions in different locations across the city, shadowed by the majestic Mt. Mayon and recognized as the “City of Fun and Adventure” by the world’s travel industry.
“We are impressed by this response of the country’s leading investors to our call for investments after the Department of Trade and Industry cited Legazpi as the most business-friendly city in Bicol for its prompt compliance with the government’s simplified Business Permit and Licensing System (BPLS),” Rosal said.
The Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) has also named Legazpi as Bicol’s “most business-friendly local government unit,” citing its effectiveness and efficiency in paving the way for the place to become a haven of investments.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recognized the city as the most business-friendly for the whole of South Luzon.
The Asian Institute of Management named Legazpi as one of the most competitive cities in the Philippines.
Apart from all these, the city is also recognized as one of the best places for business process outsourcing outside Metro Manila when it advanced in 2011 to the 10 next wave cities in the country’s industry list of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP).
Early last year, the city government won its second Seal of Good Housekeeping from the DILG for its excellence in the field of good governance measured by administrative, social, economic, environmental and other forms achievements that benefited both the community and its constituents.
The National Disaster risk Reduction Council and the Department of National Defense have also awarded in the last two consecutive years the city government with the Gawad Kalasag Awards as national champion in disaster risk reduction and management in the City Category of the contest.
Late last year, the city government also won the Galing Pook Award and Silver Governance Trailblazer Award, all for excellence in local governance and early this year, it has been nominated for the 2016 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize by the Embassy to the Philippines of the Republic of Singapore. (PNA)