As Ayala focused on developing the Glorietta side of Ayala Center in the 1990s, there was little activity on the Greenbelt side, save for perhaps the construction of the New World Hotel in the area. It was both a boon and a bane for the area as Greenbelt managed to keep its oasis-like reputation and charm reminiscent of the previous decade but was in danger of being left behind and overlooked by the rising reputation of Glorietta.
In reality, Ayala had big plans for Greenbelt, and that was no understatement. In fact, after the completion of the works that went on at Glorietta 4, it immediately turned its attention to Greenbelt and conceived a grand masterplan, which commenced with the renovation of the original Greenbelt mall. The works done weren’t much but in reality, it was more of a prep work for what was to come.
More Greenbelts on the rise
Around the same time, Ayala began building new branches of the Greenbelt mall, to be called Greenbelt 2 and Greenbelt 3 and retroactively naming the original mall as Greenbelt 1 in the process. Designed by architectural firms Callison and GF and Partners, each wing would have a more or less dedicated function, with the 3-level Greenbelt 2 allocated for parking on the upper floors and dining on the ground floor and the 4-level Greenbelt 3 allocated mostly for general retail and dining but oriented towards public pathways, plus cinemas on the 4th level which offered a more luxurious and advanced moviegoing experience compared to Glorietta’s.
Shortly after, work would commence for yet another branch: the 3-level Greenbelt 4, which was envisioned to be dedicated to larger retailers and upscale ones as well such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada. There was a bit of a catch though, much of the envisioned Greenbelt 4 would have to be built on the site of the old Greenbelt mainstay Ayala Museum. It was like the Rizal Theater issue all over again, except this time the Ayalas sought the permission of the family of Ayala Museum’s original architect Leandro Locsin to demolish the museum to be built approximately around the same site. In return, Ayala gave the Locsin heirs, through their architectural firm Leandro V. Locsin Partners, the free hand in designing the new Ayala Museum. (more on that on a previous piece you can read here)
The last piece of the puzzle was the construction of the 4-level Greenbelt 5. Its completion took a bit longer as it involved the reorientation of the internal pathways, along with ensuring connectivity with the older and quite smaller Greenbelt 1.
Redeveloping the park
But it was not just buildings Ayala was building in the area. They also sought to reimagine Greenbelt Park and made it into the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, of their Greenbelt masterplan. The plan, designed by Edward D. Stone and Associates, saw the park as an oasis in the middle of the concrete urban landscape, one that would provide nourishment and inspiration for the people going there or even just passing by.
With the development, the existing stream around Greenbelt chapel was expanded with one end leading towards the area fronting Greenbelt 3, behind an open stage and mini amphitheater. Three artificial lagoons were also constructed along the pathway near Greenbelt 4. And yes, there are fishes swimming in the stream and the lagoons.
Additional greenery was planted around the area and lots of landscaping were done. In the process, some of the old sculptures found in the old Makati Commercial Center were relocated there, along with some new ones.
On the other hand, the redevelopment also brought about some casualties in the process, such as the aviary and the retail establishments that used to be located in the middle of the park. The aviary espeicially was a huge loss that perhaps would have been saved, even if by relocation outside the area itself.
The peak of Ayala development
Greenbelts 2 and 3 would be completed in 2002 while Greenbelt 4 would be completed in 2003. While Greenbelt 5 would not be completed until 2007, the Greenbelt complex was already receiving praises for being the best designed shopping complex n the country, and one of the best in the world.
In fact, in 2003 it won Urban Land Institute Award of Excellence in the international scene and the Shopping Center of the Year at home, courtesy of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Philippine Retailers Association. The following year, it was among the 8 winners of the International Design and Development Award by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) for “Innovative Design and Construction of a New Project”.
If Glorietta marked Ayala’s successful opening salvo, Greenbelt was the zenith of its growth as a retail developer, one that effectively put Ayala on the map and would launch a competitive expansion plan that would build more Ayala malls across the metropolis and beyond. While some of Ayala’s later mall projects are commendable, none would match the effort and grandeur that it was able to achieve in Ayala Center, particularly at Greenbelt.
The last piece in the development of the Greenbelt side of Ayala Center was completed by 2010, the 3-tower residential project called The Residences at Greenbelt. It offered a few retail spaces, notable among them are the Belo Medical Group clinic and the design studio of Kenneth Cobonpue.
At this time of writing, work is being done to redevelop the interior shopping area at the ground level of Greenbelt 3 and improve the shopping experience in that part of the complex. Other than that, Ayala is pretty much confident in Greenbelt that it should remain intact for a foreseeable future. Which on their part is a good thing because they can now concentrate on the massive work that’s needed to be done in and around the Glorietta side of Ayala Center in the wake of the events of 2007.
To be continued
Acknowledgements as well to the Urban Land Institute, Manila Times, and Wikipedia