San Juan

The Good Ol’ Greenhills Shopping Center, Part 1

Mention the place Greenhills and automatically, the first thing that comes to mind is the shopping center there. But make no mistake of dismissing it as just some regular shopping area. Greenhills Shopping Center is itself a landmark of sorts that urban denizens and even tourists have come to know and love over the years, long before the shopping mall chains dominated the urban landscape.


Greenhills Shopping Center came about from a masterplan of the development of the greater Greenhills area as a residential-commercial development project by the Ortigas and Company. Renowned architect Juan Nakpil came up with the design of the structure as construction would begin by 1966. By 1970, the shopping complex was completed with the opening of its first building that was to be occupied by what would become a landmark establishment in the shopping center and Greenhills as a whole, the Unimart Supermarket. But it would the opening of another building in the complex a short time after that would put Greenhills on the map as a shopping destination, the original Virra Mall. Soon after, Shoppesville opened as well.

the old Virra Mall (photo courtesy of via Tumblr)
Unimart Supermarket, Greenhills Shopping Center’s first and oldest tenant. It has not expanded beyond the confines of the complex, that is until the opening of its second branch at another Ortigas development, Capitol Commons, which is happening soon.

From the 1970s until the early 1990s, Greenhills Shopping Center was one of the premiere shopping destinations in the metropolis, rivalling Cubao and the original Makati Commercial Center. A number of businesses set up shop there, in particular the jewelry and pearl stores, antique stores, and  clothing stores that sell cheap apparel. (even if some of them are knock-offs) Virra Mall in particular became known as a computer hub long before Gilmore took the throne. Shoppesville would eventually become known as the home of one of the most beloved performing arts venue in the metropolis, the Music Museum. (which itself deserves a future separate entry)

pearls and jewelry shops
the central area of the main building of GSC is never empty as stalls (tiangge) selling clothes, bags. handicrafts, and other items are there all year round

Then came the inevitable decline by the mid 1990s as the shopping mall chains took the metropolitan shopping scene by storm. Business establishments there saw a decline in their revenues that they found it hard to keep up. It also did not help that a fire in 2001 caused some extensive damage to the complex, particularly to Virra Mall.

It would be the mobile phone retailers and technicians who first set up shop in Greenhills Shopping Center that has kept it from further decline at the time as mobile phones were on the rise in the country at the turn of the 21st century. Despite the challenges around the complex, Greenhills Shopping Center managed to stay relevant as it became a haven for mobile technology, an honor that it still enjoys to this day despite the subsequent influx of mobile phone stalls all over the metropolis.


It could be said that the 2001 Virra Mall fire was a turning point in the history of Greenhills Shopping Center, as it helped bring about its transformation. 3 years after the incident, in 2004, Ortigas and Company decided to embark on a massive redevelopment plan for the Greenhills Shopping Center, envisioning it to compete with the bigger shopping malls in the metropolis. So massive that 10 years later, it is still ongoing even at this time of writing as the project involved a makeover of the older buildings, especially Virra Mall and Shoppesville, as well as the construction of new buildings, maximizing the complex’s 197-hectare land area.

One result of this redevelopment (one of the first works done in the complex actually) was the transformation of Virra Mall, which now became known as VMall. Much of its old concrete facade gave way to glass and some high-end retailers now occupy the building. While the computer shops are still there, it was no longer the same computer hub Virra Mall was known before, with the dominance currently of Gilmore as well as the shifting trends in technology.

VMall still sports the green sloping roof of the old Virra Mall, but it now sports a modern glass facade

Shoppesville also went through a makeover as it now sports new classy interiors though its facade has not changed much. While it still pretty much caters to clothing stores and some restaurants, a section of the building called “Shoppesville Plus” has been devoted to computer gaming and collectible toy hobby shops.

Shoppesville Plus still imbibes the classic Shoppesville aura

The main building of the GSC was renovated a bit as well to accommodate more retail space, especially classy brands, providing a contrast of sorts to the classic and modern faces of the complex.

The same tenet was applied in renovating the old Greenhills Cinema which became the Greenhills Theater Mall, which has 2 levels of retail space and 2 movie theaters as well.

Next part: the new structures rising and Christmastime at Greenhills

Acknowledgements as well to Ortigas and Company, Greenhills Shopping Center, Interaksyon, and the Philippine Star

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