San Juan

Santolan Town Plaza and the Rise of the Community Malls

Throughout most of Metro Manila’s history of commercial development, the “philosophy” has always been about building them big. Especially in the past 30+ years, there has been an unprecedented level of activity in mall construction in almost every part of the metropolis.

But now, commercial developers are facing a dilemma that many other developers in the metropolis face. For one, the metropolis is shrinking, with lesser room now for new developments. There is also the growing need for open spaces, a belated realization after the unchecked development that was going on for decades.

But as they say, it’s better late than never. And it’s nice that there are some developers who are learning those past mistakes to build more conducive and planned commercial developments that, at the very least, would not make as much impact on the community as a giant shopping mall would normally bring. One of those developers is Rockwell Land, which opened just last 2018, a medium scale commercial development in the middle of San Juan dubbed the Santolan Town Plaza.

Despite the name, this development is not located in or near Santolan in Pasig but is rather alongside the road formerly known as Santolan Road, which is now Col. Bonny Serrano Avenue. You can call the Urban Roamer nitpicky for saying it shouldn’t bear the Santolan name in the first place. But whatever.

Sitting on a 1.4-hectare land area, Santolan Town Plaza is a comprised of a 3-level podium that houses various shops and restaurants, a supermarket, 4 movie theaters, and a dining area; a 5-level office tower; and the outdoor which houses additional shops and restaurants, as well as a mini garden. It is also the first, and so far the only, major commercial development outside the Greenhills Commercial Center which has long dominated commercial activity in the city. So in many ways, the Santolan Town Plaza is trying to take some of the spotlight away from Greenhills by being different from it…if that makes sense.

Despite these amenities, the Santolan Town Plaza evokes a more subdued and, perhaps, home-y atmosphere compared to the giant shopping malls. It can be partly due to the size of the commercial area itself or that there are relatively fewer crowds there even on weekends. While in some respects it is still a shopping mall, it is not a traditional one regardless. In fact, some call developments these as “community malls” or “community lifestyle centers” or the like.

Honestly, there is nothing much to say about Santolan Town Plaza other than the hope that more developers would build more community-based lifestyle developments like these. At this point, the metropolis does not need more humongous shopping malls. Even a small-scale commercial development with the essential amenities and a good open space that provides a more conducive environment would do to make the city a bit more livable.

Acknowledgements as well to Santolan Town Plaza

One Comment

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    carlotta

    this place actually used to be part of the white cross orphanage before it was sold to developers. a sad thing since we lost a good amount of greenery in good old san juan. it’s still a nice place to visit though. more laid back than chaotic greenhills especially now that it’s being dug up again to create high-rises.

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