Until the late 1990s, much of the working population of Metro Manila has been largely confined into 3 main business districts: Binondo (albeit not as busy even then as it was before World War II), Makati, and Ortigas Center. For years, these areas have been the premier addresses where one can find the towering skyscrapers and where most business activity is based.
But the landscape began to change in that mid-1990s. Advances in digital communication were being made, especially with the internet beginning to take hold. There is now a growing need for infrastructure to keep up with these digital advances as more businesses, old and new, are eager to catch the digital wave that is taking shape. Makati and Ortigas Center were now working to address those needs, but it was clear then that they were not enough to satisfy that growing demand.
Enter Megaworld Corporation, an upstart property developer that was eager to develop its own business district that will rival Ayala and Ortigas. And it figured that developing and marketing its planned business district, targeted towards the large and emerging IT businesses was the key for it to stand out.
Megaworld acquired a piece of property (sources vary on the land area at 17, 18, or 18.5 square meters) in the then-industrial complex of Libis-Bagumbayan area between E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue segment of the C-5 road network and Marikina River (though it was straddling near the West Valley Fault Line). This would be the foundation of what would become Eastwood City, the Philippines’ first cyberpark in which it was developed specifically for technology businesses in mind.
Eastwood City was inaugurated in 1997 in the midst of challenges at the onset. First, the area where Eastwood City is located is not really known as a commercial area. Rather, it was a traditionally industrial area where large factories were located like Mercury Drug (which was next door to Eastwood City) and Alaska Milk, among others. Thus Megaworld had to work hard to entice big companies to relocate or at least have a presence in their new cyberpark. Then, the Asian financial crisis hit that year, so development slowed down as the task of finding businesses to relocate them became more difficult.
Fortunately, Megaworld was able to secure two big businesses to set up shop in Eastwood City. The first was Citibank Philippines, which Megaworld was able to secure before the Eastwood City’s inauguration. Thus, it had the privilege of being located in a prime location at the corner of E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue and Eastwood Avenue. Thus its building, the 20-storey Citibank Square would serve as the gateway to the district and home of Citibank’s contact center operations.
The other company was the Philippine office of Big Blue itself, IBM, for which Megaworld would build its home 2 blocks away from Citibank Square. The building would be what is known now as the 20-storey IBM Plaza, which IBM has called home since 2000.
It is no exaggeration that IBM and Citibank helped put Eastwood City on the map, so to speak. Their decision to set up shop there paved the way for many other companies to follow, many of them being business process outsourcing (BPO) companies. The timing was right as well, as the outsourcing boom in the Philippines was beginning to take shape. These BPO companies fueled Eastwood City’s growth into the BPO hub that we know today.
But the business component was just part of Megaworld’s vision for Eastwood City. The fact that it was named a “city” should give one an idea as to what Megaworld had in mind: to be that one place where people can live, work, shop, dine, and enjoy all within its 17-18.5 hectare property. Thus, Eastwood City stands as not just the first cyberpark but also one of the first to introduce and popularize the concept of a “township”
To be continued…
Acknowledgements as well to Megaworld and KMC Savills