Araneta Center turns 60
Provide the best for the most.
This is the principle that has guided the development of the Araneta Center since industrialist J. Amado Araneta consolidated 35 hectares of prime property at the crossroads of Highway 54 (Edsa) and Aurora Boulevard in 1954.
The strategic location of the property was irresistible to the visionary, who saw in the wide expanse the potential for a thriving city center, one that can be easily accessed by those coming from the north, south, east and west.
The city center he was determined to build would not cater mainly to the elite, but rather the ordinary Filipinos who stand to benefit the most from the landmarks he was eager to bring to life.
According to Jorge L. Araneta, CEO of the Araneta Group, the development philosophy for the Araneta Center has not changed, even as the group has stepped up the pace of its multibillion-peso redevelopment program for Quezon City’s premier central business district.
The redevelopment program began in 1997 when the group, with the help of international and local consultants, drafted a new master plan for the center—one that will maximize its considerable strengths and prepare the group well for the next growth stage of the company and the country.
Araneta told the Inquirer in an interview that the master plan called for the ‘extreme transformation’ of the center into one that is more vibrant, adapting to the changing nature of customers and the emergence of new growth sectors, such as the business process outsourcing industry.
Fittingly, the redevelopment plan began in 1999 with the massive renovation of the Big Dome, the centerpiece of the Araneta Center.
It was for a time the biggest covered coliseum in the world.
The Araneta Coliseum has hosted over 6,000 world class shows viewed by 35 million people since it opened in 1960 and hosted Flash Elorde’s triumph over Harold Gomes before a sellout crowd of 36,000 people.
In 2011, it was renamed the Smart Araneta Coliseum following a landmark naming rights agreement with the telecommunications group led by executive Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Since the signing of the agreement, the group has completed projects to enhance the experience of the Big Dome’s visitors, from the completion of a parking complex with direct access
to the coliseum to the refurbishment of the walkways, bathrooms and the food court.
And in keeping with the founder’s vision for the center to cater to all Filipinos, the center welcomed the opening of the MRT Araneta Station in 1999 and the LRT Araneta Station in 2003, providing commuters with direct and comfortable access to the center, which hosts terminals for various types of public utility vehicles.
Then in 2004, the five-level Gateway Mall, the first new development to be completed under the expansion program, opened to great fanfare and excitement.
Described as “Like No Other Mall In The World,” Gateway Mall, which wraps around the coliseum and connects the two transit terminals at the ends, was twice named Shopping Center of the Year by the Philippine Retailers Association.
It also won in 2008 recognition from the International Council of Shopping Centers, and was a finalist in the Urban Land Institute Awards for Excellence.
For the Araneta Group, the enthusiastic reception to the Gateway Mall was a very real signal that it was on the right path and that it had the support of its loyal customers and was winning over a new generation of shoppers.
From there, development continued at a frenzied pace.
There was the groundbreaking for the Manhattan Garden City as well as the Cyberpark Complex in 2009, the year when the P30-billion redevelopment of the Araneta Center was branded ‘extreme transformation’ to also describe the evolution of the district’s skyline.
Set to open this year, for example, is the Novotel Araneta Center, which broke ground in 2012.
Araneta had said that Novotel Araneta was envisioned to be the only upscale hotel in Quezon City that would offer a “five-star experience at four star prices,” in keeping with the philosophy of providing the best for the most.
Novotel Araneta will have 415 rooms, a 600-square-meter ballroom that can fit 1,000 people, a Presidential Suite at the penthouse level and an executive lounge with a 360-degree view of the city.
It will cater largely to the needs of some 60,000 registered businesses in Quezon City, and the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions market, which has been growing because of the renewed international interest in the country’s tourism and corporate sectors.
The Araneta Group also made sure that the redevelopment program would not leave the arts behind as the center is likewise being positioned as “Quezon City’s Cultural Hub.”
Last year, to formally mark the 60th year of Araneta Center, the group launched the “Siningsaysay: Philippine History in Art” exhibit at the newly constructed J. Amado Araneta Gallery within the imposing Gateway Tower.
It is the group’s tribute to the arts and the result of the partnership between the J. Amado Araneta Foundation and the University of the Philippines Alumni Association.
Artists from the University of the Philippines—Araneta’s alma mater—were tapped to express on giant canvasses their take on key events in Philippine history.
New Frontier Theater
Additional developments to be completed this year are the New Frontier Theater, which will become a center for Philippine arts and culture, and Cyberpark Tower One, the first 32-level tech tower to rise within the eight-hectare Araneta Center Cyberpark.
Once completed, the CyberPark will have five state-of-the-art towers, merging the amenities of a BPO-primed tech tower with retail and leisure conveniences.
Meanwhile, the New Frontier Cinema, once touted to be Asia’s largest, opened in 1967 with a seating capacity of 3,000, will be reopened as a new destination for live entertainment and performing arts that can accommodate 2,500 guests.
All of these positive developments combine to make the Araneta group look with supreme confidence to the future of the Araneta Center.
For the chairman and CEO of the Araneta Group, the best of the center undergoing its renaissance is on the horizon.
Araneta thus keeps one eye on the Center’s glorious past and the other firmly fixed on a bright and profitable future that will see the Araneta Center playing an even bigger role in national development.
As J. Amado Araneta always said, “everything flows from the Center.”
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