United Laboratories, otherwise known as Unilab, has been one of the most prominent pharmaceutical companies in the country. It has come a long way since founders Jose Y. Campos and Mariano K. Tan opened United Drug Co. in Sto Cristo Street in San Nicolas, Manila in 1945 before transitioning into drug manufacturing in 1953.
It was their foray into drug manufacturing where they found growth and success. So successful that in just 5 years, the company that eventually became United Laboratories found it necessary to move to a larger facility. Ortigas and Company offered them part of the vast Ortigas landholdings located near the corner of what is now EDSA and Shaw Boulevard.
Beginnings as EDSA Central
For a while, Unilab was content to make use of the site along Mayflower Street for its facilities while leaving the rest undeveloped. However, they did set up Greenfield Development Corporation to manage that yet to be developed property.
The first signs of development in the area began in the 1970s when Greenfield developed a commercial complex which would mainly consist of 2 shopping center buildings, the EDSA Central Mall along EDSA and EDSA Central Bazaar along Shaw Boulevard, and a market, the EDSA Central Market (eventually named Marketplace), to meet the rising development in the area, especially in the nearby Ortigas Center. This complex would be known as EDSA Central and would become a prime landmark in the EDSA-Shaw area alongside the Manuela (now Starmall) shopping mall.
Then Shangri-La Plaza came into the picture, which was more upscale, posh, and drove shopper traffic away from EDSA Central. Plans were made to redevelop EDSA Central into a more modern shopping mall. Fortunately, the mass transit Line 3 was being built and part of Shaw Boulevard station will be connected to EDSA Central which was hoped to boost foot traffic.
Around the same time, Greenfield built more facilities in the property as it envisioned EDSA Central as an alternative, more modest shopping destination and transport hub in one. One building would serve to be a terminal for jeepneys bound for different parts of Pasig and Rizal province, with a retail component as well. A two-storey IT hub building across the shopping center would also be built for use of the growing outsourcing industry in the country.
Unfortunately, these developments did not prevent the continuing decline of EDSA Central. Thus, the difficult decision of redevelopment came into play and some establishments like the market and the jeepney terminal would have to go in the process.
Reborn as Greenfield District
In 2003, Greenfield Development Corp. announced that EDSA Central would redeveloped and expanded. Along with it came a new name to signify the ambitions of this new development project: Greenfield District.
The first developments in the Greenfield District were the redevelopment of the shopping buildings, with the EDSA Central Mall renamed and redeveloped as the Pavilion and the former EDSA Central Bazaar converted into this office facility with some retail space. By the 2010s, the former market was converted into a commercial facility called The Portal which consists restaurants, amusement space, and showroom area. The former jeepney terminal became a dining strip called The Hub.
But perhaps the most significant of these redevelopments was with the central area of the complex a former parking area (I believe) which was converted into this vast green open space with stage and some faux forests on the side. This space, now known as the Greenfield Central Park would be the heart and soul of Greenfield District, with it becoming the main venue for events and activities, particularly the Greenfield Weekend Market which the Urban Roamer has covered years prior and is still going strong today.
The District further rises…literally
As with any township developments in the metropolis, there would be new towering structures to be built as well. And with some prime open space still available by that point, Greenfield Development Corp. was ready to flex its muscles as a commercial developer.
The first major project to rise (literally) in the district was a joint venture with Century Properties: a 41-storey residential and commercial tower called Soho Central. It was completed in 2009, the first of the many vertical developments to come.
For the next 10 years, more buildings were being built in completed. On the Shaw Boulevard side, there was the rattan-weave inspired design of Zitan, which has 3 floors for retail and further 32 floors for residences. There was also the twin building development of Twin Oaks Place at 43 floors each.
Further near the southern end at the block bounded by United, Mayflower, Williams, and Sheridan streets the office building developments. The most prominent of these is the Greenfield Tower, a 30-storey building that also serves as the headquarters of Greenfield Development Corporation.
On the opposite end of the block is a development not by Greenfield but by Rockwell Land through a lease agreement with the former. Rockwell would build a two-tower development at a modest 15-storeys each of office space with a 2-level podium for retail space. This would be the Rockwell Business Center Sheridan.
Unilab downsizes and upgrades
With all these developments, Greenfield District is still, at its core, the home of Unilab. Over the years though, the Unilab part of the district saw some massive changes. For one, the construction of Soho Central and Twin Oaks Place already merited that some of its facilities would have to give way. Which to Unilab was no big deal anyway as it was already growing and had to move those facilities and a few other offices to a bigger space in Biñan, Laguna.
At the same time, Unilab underwent a redevelopment of its own and built some new facilities in the process. The Unilab head office along United Avenue was expanded all the way to Williams Street on the south side and Pioneer Street on the east with the addition of Unilab’s events venue, the Bayanihan Center in 2010. In addition, another facility was built across Greenfield Tower, Williams Center which holds additional offices for the company.
Looking back and ahead
The history of Greenfield District’s development was a long one, defined by periods of long lulls which may have been a result of Unilab’s indecisiveness on what to do with its vast property. And even as it began making earnest efforts, those were sadly half-hearted attempts and they ended up getting rid of some gems like the jeepney terminal and the market which would have given Farmers’ Market in Cubao a run for its money. Even today, there are some glaring issues. For one, the retail side still needs improvement, especially for Pavilion Mall. While it could not and should not take on its giant neighbours, it could have tried to make the mall look a bit better.
But there is a lot to like about Greenfield District as well. Having that central park was a great move and help make the area a must-visit destination that it is today. There is also a semblance of order and planning, with such defined areas for commercial spaces, for residences, and for office developments. It’s very rare for a township to have such a development plan and Greenfield deserves credit for it.
As it stands now, Greenfield District is pretty much fully-developed though there are some open spaces still that may be developed in the future. Here’s hoping that future developments would continue to build on the planning that has been done and introduce facilities that will help fully realize its potential as a “connected” township.