Glorietta entrance
Makati

The Ayala Center Story: Part 4 – Rebranding and Glorietta’s glory days

As was discussed in the previous installment, the late 1980s saw the end of the old Makati Commercial Center as Ayala took the driver’s seat in the area’s commercial development, the centerpiece being the redeveloped strip mall-type Quad buildings and the open space in the middle, called the Glorietta.

In the process, Ayala made some massive changes as it decided to ditch the strip mall in favor of an enclosed mall complex that will encompass the Quad buildings and the Glorietta open space, providing greater integration not only within the complex but with neighboring buildings. Not to mention it provides opportunities for more retail tenants as well. This integration would eventually make its way into the naming convention years later as it was decided that this integrated shopping complex would now take its name from the former open area where the buildings used to converge. From Quad, the shopping area would be known as Glorietta.

Glorietta
Glorietta (photo courtesy of Everything Eric – https://everythingeric.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/the-old-glorietta-and-the-young-you/)

Introducing…Ayala Center

While work was going on in the Glorietta side, Ayala was also putting the final touches not only on the transformation of Makati Commercial Center but also laying the foundation of a greater Ayala commercial complex in Makati, one that would encompass not only the old Makati Commercial Complex but also neighboring Greenbelt on the west. This greater Ayala commercial complex would be known by a new name: Ayala Center.

Ayala Center’s current logo as of 2020, in contrast to the logo in the ad below

Ayala would introduce Ayala Center to the public in 1993 with a catchy ad that would be embedded into the consciousness of the public that meshed well with the optimism being felt in the early 1990s.

With Glorietta and Greenbelt brought together under the Ayala Center brand/complex, Ayala would rise to become a top retail developer in the country and a fierce rival to SM. Sure, Ayala was lagging in terms of malls it has built even back then compared to SM, but as we shall see, Ayala made up for it by snagging the big global brands, some of them only exclusive to at least one of their malls. Indeed, Ayala upped the ante in the shopping mall wars.

Glorietta makes a statement

The redevelopment of Glorietta took years and in phases. The first to be completed is Glorietta 1 and 2, where the old Quad Theater and Makati Supermarket were located, respectively in 1991. Glorietta 3 was completed a year later. Glorietta 4 was the latest of the original 4 to be completed in 1998, though some sections of Glorietta 4 were already open by then.

As was discussed earlier, Ayala made it a point early on to have top global brands find a presence in the country at their malls, especially at its crown jewel Glorietta. The result of those efforts was that in 2001, 10 years after Glorietta was opened to the public, it had become the metropolis’ shopping mecca thanks in part to the exclusive presence of global brands like the Warner Bros. Studio Store, Tower Records, Hard Rock Cafe, Louis Vuitton, and Prada. Other global brands chose Glorietta as their first/flagship branch in the country, like TGI Friday’s, Timezone, and Music One.

Some local brands would also have a sizeable presence in the mall like Mercury Drug which occupied 3 floors of Glorietta 3, National Bookstore at Glorietta 1, and Toby’s at the 3rd level of Glorietta 2 which boasted a mini basketball court at one point. For any retail brand, having a branch in Glorietta at that time was a sign of prestige and a guarantee of success.

Glorietta also offered a new cinema experience, especially with the opening of the Glorietta 4 cinemas to complement the former Quad, now Glorietta 1 cinemas. Glorietta’s theaters boast THX sound and reserve seating, changing the way we watched movies.

Meanwhile, the original open space Glorietta became the Activity Center which served as a venue for trade fairs, concerts, and other events. Even in an enclosed environment, it still served the same function as before.

Glorietta

Still, there was a place for the smaller retailers in the mall. A number of them were located at Goldcrest in Glorietta 2 which had an arcade layout that was reminiscent of the old arcade shopping buildings that used to stand in the area. In essence, Goldcrest served to evoke an aura of old Makati Commercial Center in the midst of this new landscape.

Glorietta Goldcrest

Of course, there are also other factors that helped put Glorietta on the map such as the fact that it is located right at the country’s premier business district and that it was accessible by public transport. Especially with the opening of mass transit Line 3 and a station connecting consumers to Ayala Center with a station of its own (even though it had to pass through its rival’s department store SM Makati)

The grand entrance of the Line 3 Ayala station. Unfortunately, the grandeur could not be applied to the cramped northbound exit of the station.

An integrated experience

From the beginning, Ayala’s vision for Ayala Center is that of integration and connectivity, where everything a shopper or visitor needs is just a few steps away, even to the point where you don’t need go outdoors. Thus there are these connecting bridges between Glorietta and Landmark, as well as with SM Makati. Rustan’s was connected to Glorietta with a structure conveniently giving an impression that Rustan’s is part of Glorietta even if it technically isn’t. There is also an underground walkway connecting the mall to Hotel Intercontinental.

Structurewise, the most striking aspect of this integrated vision is the presence of the 2-tower 26-floor serviced apartment building. It opened in 1998 as The Oakwood Premier Makati, part of a chain of serviced apartments across the globe. As such, it was a favored place for expats who are here in the country on lengthy stays.

Glorietta days gone

As Glorietta was prepared to look forward to another decade of success, serious challenges came onto the mall.

On July 27, 2003, a group of 321 armed soldiers launched a mutiny and took over the Oakwood Premier building. The soldiers, who were known as the Magdalo group, aimed to show to the people the alleged corruption in the government under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Tension filled the area that whole and through the night, until an agreement was reached to end the mutiny and the soldiers left Oakwood by 11 PM. Despite the peaceful resolution, Oakwood never really recovered from this event. It would let go of the Makati property in 2007 to its new managers, Ascott Residence, who promptly renamed it Ascott Makati.

On the retail side, the landscape across the globe was changing that some global retailers had to shut down their operations here. The Warner Bros. store and the music stores were among the first to cease operations. Still, new retailers came to take their place. But rivals were beginning to catch up, with SM in particular managing to achieve greater dominance than before thanks especially to the opening of the SM Mall of Asia in 2006.

But the most serious of these challenges happened on October 19, 2007 when an explosion hit Glorietta 2, killing 11 people and injuring a further 120. Authorities suspected an LPG gas leak was the cause of the explosion but it was not actually not ascertained. Ayala paid compensation to the victims, especially to the families of those who died.

The explosion would mark the end of the old Glorietta that was the metropolis’ shopping mecca. The event would have a lasting impact not only on the mall but of Ayala Center as a whole as it would spark a new wave of redevelopment that continues to this day, transforming the landscape further into something unfamiliar anymore for those who have come to love the Glorietta of the first 16 years.

But everything is not all grim for Ayala and Ayala Center as it was nurturing what would be its crowning glory in retail development over at Greenbelt.

To be continued

Acknowledgements as well to the Urban Land Institute and Wikipedia

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