Landmark Makati at Ayala Center
Makati

The Ayala Center Story: Part 3 – Radical makeover

While the 1980s marked the beginning of Greenbelt that we know today, the period also marked the end of the old Makati Commercial Center, with one event after another that marked the end of those Makati Commercial Center landmarks that we got introduced to in Part 1.

Not surprisingly, this era marked the beginning of the next chapter for this complex. It was no longer to be just Makati’s center of commerce. It was to become the crown jewel of an awakened giant, ready to go beyond its Makati “comfort zone” and compete in a changing retail landscape.

An end to an era

In the early to mid-1980s, Makati Commercial Center was hit by fires which heavily damaged two beloved landmarks in the area: the Maranaw Arcade and the Makati Supermarket. With the area reeling from the damage the fires, the seeds were in place for what would become a total overhaul of the area. In both instances, the Ayala landowners didn’t bother to rebuild the damaged structures, opting instead for new structures to take their place, which we will discuss in a bit.

Another key event that marked the end of the Makati Commercial Center was the end of the various leases the Ayalas entered with the establishments there, most of them originally leased for a period of 25 years. As was discussed in the previous installment, it also coincided with the Ayalas entering into the retail development business themselves and no longer content being landlords. Some, like Sulo Restaurant, saw the warning signs and voluntarily closed down for good by 1989. Others, like the Rizal Theater were demolished as soon as the lease expired, losing not only a work of a National Artist like Juan Nakpil but also a unique architectural landmark that gave Makati its character.

Ayala makes its moves

As Ayala was intent on building a new Makati commercial complex from the ground up, at least in many instances, unofficially it was no longer keen putting areas in the complex for retail lease. Thus, the site of the former Makati Supermarket was replaced with a new building: Quad 2 to complement the original Quad building which Ayala originally built in the 1970s. Meanwhile, the site of Sulo Restaurant becoming Quad 3 and the former Bricktown and Mayfair arcades becoming Quad 4.

There were exceptions though. One was given to the owner of Anson’s appliance store who was looking to open a department store and supermarket in Makati. With the loss of Makati Supermarket, the Ayalas offered the site of Maranaw arcade to put up their department store and supermarket. This would be opened in 1988 called The Landmark.

The Landmark Makati in 2020; note the “whiter” parts of the building indicate the additional floors added to the building in 2015

The Landmark was to be the last independent retailer that was able to have a presence there, a presence that it has still kept to this day. Originally 3 levels in height with a supermarket at the lower ground level. It was expanded in 2015, a bit far off the 1980s-early 1990s timeline this part is focused on but worth noting here, with two additional levels at the top, the topmost serving as the site a Catholic chapel.

Makati Shangri-La Hotel

Ayala also went full steam in developing hospitality and office spaces in the complex. In 1993, the Makati Shangri-La Hotel was opened right at the site of the Rizal Theater, the second Shangri-La hotel in the country after the successful opening of the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel a year previously, not to mention its mall in Mandaluyong which opened in 1991. Despite this, the memory of the Rizal Theater was somehow kept alive when the Makati Shangri-La’s large ballroom area was named the Rizal Ballroom in the former theater’s honor.

Entrance to the Rizal Ballroom at Makati Shangri-La, site of the former Rizal Theater in Makati

1993 also saw the completion of 6750 Ayala Avenue, a 24-level office building with some retail establishments located on the ground level, including the first Starbucks branch in the Philippines. The building also serves as the head office of Microsoft in the country.

Lastly, with the growing foot traffic, Ayala built two parking buildings: Park Square 2 across Landmark and Park Square 1 across SM Makati. Both had retail spaces on the ground floor though the spaces in Park Square 1 were a bit more “upscale” as the tech hub of the complex before.

Park Square 1 in 2009

Surviving the changes

Wtih the changes going on in the complex from the 1980s to the early 1990s, Rustan’s, Hotel Intercontinental, SM Makati, and Hotel Nikko (now Dusit Thani Hotel) managed to survive, though Hotel Intercontinental did not manage to survive long enough to make it up to 2016. Of the remaining three today, only Hotel Nikko/Dusit Thani managed to look the same throughout this time.

In the case of Rustan’s it underwent a massive transformation that while it gained linkage to the Quad shopping areas, it also lost its iconic blue glass facade in favor of a concrete-plastered exterior and a curved glass windows to accommodate the elevators installed there.

On the flipside, SM underwent an expansion, twice. One was in the 1980s when it opened the SM Makati Annex to be the site of its supermarket and other SM anchor stores. The other expansion happened in 2004, again a bit ahead of our 1980s-early 1990s timeline but still worth noting, which SM expanded to occupy an entire block and add more retail tenants within its premises. It was the closest attempt SM did to building a mall in Makati without straining what can be seen as cordial but tense relationship between SM and Ayala, which have become rival retail development giants by this point.

This side of SM Makati seen in this photo is the product of the 2004 expansion project

As to when and how Ayala finally became a retail development giant in its own right is what we will be looking at in Part 4 with the birth of Glorietta and the transformation of the Makati and Greenbelt complexes into one Ayala Center.

To be continued

Acknowledgements as well to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Makati Shangri-La, and Collier’s

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