Community arcades do good business in DagupanBy Gabriel Cardiñoza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
DAGUPAN CITY—Community arcades are beginning to flourish as alternative shopping and entertainment venues in this coastal city, despite the presence of hometown malls and a mall chain branch in a neighboring town.
The arcades, which sprouted in unlikely sections of the city’s business district, have been attracting people in a hurry and those wanting to unwind after office hours. They have restaurants and fast-food joints, coffee shops, gyms, spas, concept stores and offer other services and goods.
Mayor Benjamin Lim says the success of the arcades may be attributed to the people’s changing lifestyles.
“People were basically looking for a clean night life, where they can go to a decent bar, where they can eat with their family, where they can celebrate occasions in a place where they feel that it’s convenient,” Lim says.
Aside from this, he says, shoppers now want to travel less to buy what they need. “So, while we modernize, convenience is the key and less time consumed to do things is paramount.”
Arcades provide a shopping environment different from a traditional mall, according to Howard Chua Cham, who built in 2006 Orient Pacific Center, the first community arcade here.
“This is a place where you do what you want to do then you go. Unlike in a traditional mall which is designed … [to] bring people in and then try to keep those people for the longest possible time,” Chua Cham says.
This is the reason why inside a mall, clocks are not displayed prominently so people could lose track of time and keep on consuming, he says.
“But in a community arcade, the environment is different because you can see the sky, you know what time it is. You can keep track of time and you can do other things while here,” Chua Cham says.
“You can also go outside, walk around the wide open space and enjoy the breeze. You can bring along your pets, which are not allowed in air-conditioned malls,” he says.
But the businessman says getting people to shop or dine in arcades did not happen overnight.
“It was very difficult to attract tenants in the beginning,” says Chua Cham, an architecture graduate from the University of the Philippines. “This may be because people tend to be skeptical with things that are new and things that are different.”
Unlike giant mall chains SM and Robinsons, which are already established, Chua Cham says he was just starting.
But his initial difficulties may have something to do with his arcade’s location. It was built in this city’s business section where no one would have expected it to be there.
The two-story Orient Pacific is located on a less than 1,000 square-meter street corner lot, where a wooden kindergarten school building used to stand between a hospital and a church. It looks odd enough in a row of mobile phone dealers and banks, although its colorful structure and design is a welcome sight.
Chua Cham says he waited two years for people to patronize it and make it profitable.
Despite the challenges and the “tough business environment” in the city, he erected in 2010 a second community arcade, the Eastgate Plaza. Its location was originally a family-owned 5,000 square-meter sawmill and lumber yard in the hardware stores section of the city’s eastern business district.
Two other arcades, the Star Green Promenade owned by another local businessman, and the Metro Plaza, which was built on a city government property, opened for business in 2011.
Lim says community arcades were what he wanted all along to be established to complement the city government’s tourism program.
“Through the years that I’ve been the mayor, I have often been told by visitors that there’s not much place to go in Dagupan,” Lim says.
Before he launched the city’s river cruise last year, the mayor says it was only the Tondaligan Beach that was drawing tourists. But even the number of beach goers has been dwindling every year, he says, because of some problems in the area.
“We really need to do a lot of work there. The city dump is there and the cottages there are very difficult to manage. It’s not the beach that we would like market. We should have a beach that we can be proud of,” he says.
Lim says arcades form part of the amenities that people usually look for.
“Even us, when we go to Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo or Davao, we usually look for a place to go after a day’s work,” he says.
Aside from filling in what was once a void to satisfy the needs of the people’s new lifestyle, Chua Cham says community arcades also enhance a city’s landscape.
“In building community arcades, as much as possible, we retain the charm or the natural look of the city and we try to enhance it,” he says.
“There’s a movement in architecture called urban renewal. And building these [arcades] is one of our contributions to this movement. We actually help beautify our community,” he adds.
Short URL: http://business.inquirer.net/?p=75021