Many of the mixed-use developments (those with residential, commercial, and business components) that have sprouted all over the metropolis came about as a result of careful and thorough planning, for the most part at least. From the old established business districts like Makati CBD, Ortigas Center, and Araneta
Center City to the rising developments like Bonifacio Global City, Filinvest City, and Eastwood City, the work done by the property developers and planners have helped shape these areas into what they are today, regardless of how well (or not) their work turned out to be.
Then there is the curious case of the development of southeast Mandaluyong, a mixed development district that mostly does not have a unique identity nor was borne out of a development masterplan of sorts. It is a story of how the changing urban landscape has transformed this part of the metropolis, into something that is beyond recognition compared to what it was at least 30 years ago.
For this article’s purposes, the Urban Roamer is giving this Southeast Mandaluyong district as the area being bounded by Shaw Boulevard in the north, EDSA in the west, Pasig River in the south and the Mandaluyong-Pasig boundary in the east. This would include the Greenfield District which the Urban Roamer has documented in a previous article so this article would focus on the rest of the district which actually has an interesting story to tell as far as its development is concerned.
The area of Southeast Mandaluyong was once part of the vast estate owned by the Ortigas family. At its height, the Ortigas estate encompassed the areas we know today as Camps Crame and Aguinaldo, Greenhills, Ugong, Kapitolyo, Wack-Wack, and, of course, Ortigas Center. But in the wake of Manila’s destruction during World War II and the surge in the desire of businesses and families to move away from the city, the Ortigas clan moved to address this demand by developing some parcels of their estate (like in the case of Greenhills, Ortigas Center, and Ugong) or by selling or donating other parcels to interested entities.
It was the case of the latter with regard to the development of Southeast Mandaluyong. But in contrast to how the other parts of the old Ortigas estate were transformed into residential and commercial areas, this particular area was, by design or otherwise, developed into this industrial hub of what was then the Greater Manila area. At that time, its location as an industrial hub was very much desired given that back then, it was already considered far off from the congested city and was accessible not only via land transportation via EDSA (which was known as Highway 54 back then) but also via water transport through the Pasig River and the railway with the branch of the old Manila Railroad from Santa Mesa running up to Southeast Mandaluyong. All of which make it ideal for these companies to transport the goods coming from their factories there to the city and beyond.
One of the first companies to set up their manufacturing and warehousing in the area was Liberty Milk which was inaugurated in 1957. United Laboratories followed suit in 1958, who also moved their corporate headquarters there. From the 1960s up until the 1980s, companies like Abbott Laboratories, Eveready, Puyat Steel, Comfoods, and Euromed, among others, helped put Mandaluyong on the map, so to speak, as the industrial center of the metropolis and spurred the town’s progress into what it is today as a progressive city. (Mandaluyong would officially become a city in 1994, a year ahead of Makati)
Decline of the industrial hub
As the 1990s drew, a globalized economy, rapid urbanization and the rising population were altering the landscape of the metropolis. No place where this transformation was more evident than in Southeast Mandaluyong.
For one, Metro Manila’s population continued to rise and the need for more residential and commercial developments has skyrocketed. As such, real estate developers were scrambling to develop whatever land was available within the metropolis to meet such demand. It was becoming untenable for businesses to set up manufacturing operations in a city that is running out of available space and being squeezed in by a growing population. It also did not help that the old rail access ceased to exist by the 1980s.
In response to this new reality, some companies opted to relocate their manufacturing and warehouse facilities to areas outside Metro Manila such as Laguna where there is much more open space to use and grow their operations. Others, especially the multinational companies, looked at things from a global perspective and decided to move their manufacturing operations outside the Philippines itself where labor and other costs were much lower and contented to keep just a business presence here.
Modern Southeast Mandaluyong rises, literally and figuratively
The transformation of Southeast Mandaluyong into a mixed-use development area came about in two key developments. The first one happened in 1987 when National Bookstore had a building built to be its headquarters, the Quad Alpha Centrum on Pioneer Street. A decade later in 1998, a 42-storey building at the corner of EDSA corner Reliance Street, the 42-storey Paragon Plaza, a residential and commercial building which has the distinction of having a radio tower at the top as it is home to the Vera Group’s network of Metro Manila radio stations such as Magic 89.9, 99.5 Play FM, Jam 88.3, and Mellow 947.
It would be in the 2000s that Southeast Mandaluyong would begin its most radical transformation as real estate developers were acquiring the properties of the old industrial locators left and right and built towering edifices in their place. Robinsons Land was among the first to develop the area in the early 2000s turning the corner of EDSA and Pioneer Street into a mixed development called the Cybergate Complex. The complex is comprised of four office buildings (Cybergate Plaza, which also houses a branch of Robinsons’ budget hotel chain Go Hotels, and Cybergate Towers 1 to 3), five residential buildings (Axis Residences, Gateway Garden Ridge, Gateway Garden Heights, One Gateway Place, and Gateway Regency) and, until recently a mall (Forum Robinsons) which was demolished to give way to a new development which Robinsons has not announced yet.
But perhaps the biggest boost to the development of modern Southeast Mandaluyong was the entry of SM Group’s residential development arm SMDC in 2009 with the launch of Light Residences. With three residential towers (ranging from 37 to 40 storeys in height), a two-level mall at its podium (with a supermarket and two cinemas to boot), and, most importantly, a direct connection to Line 3’s Boni Avenue Station, Light Residences became a hit residential project in the metropolis. So much so that SMDC went to build two more residential projects in the area, also along EDSA: Fame Residences, a four-tower, 39-storey project with a one level mall built on the site of the former Eveready facility; and Light 2 Residences, which has 2 towers at 52 storeys being built right beside, of course, Light Residences.
Other locators would follow suit, mostly residential developers following SMDC’s lead. Ayala’s Avida Land would acquire another EDSA property at the corner of Reliance Street, where it would build Avida Towers Centera, with four towers ranging from 29 to 36 storeys in height and a retail space at the ground level. Behind Centera at Mayflower Street, Avida is also building another residential project, Avida Towers Verge, a three-tower residential development.
Nearby, DMCI acquired a property at the corner of Reliance and Pines Streets and began building Flair Towers, a purely residential development with two towers each 41 storeys in height. Up ahead on Reliance is the 9-storey TV5 Media Center, the only purely non-residential development in Southeast Mandaluyong to have been built in the 2010s. (the building was built in 2011-2017)
Moving back down to Pioneer Street, one can find at the corner of Madison Street the two-tower development Pioneer Highlands. Completed in 2009, it was known a long time was known for being the head office of Globe Telecom (hence it was known as Globe Telecom Plaza) before it moved to its current headquarters in Bonifacio Global City in 2013. Reportedly, it is a DMCI project though this has yet to be confirmed.
Up ahead in Pioneer is Sunshine 100, a three-tower residential development by not-yet-well-known developer by the name of Federal Pioneer Development Corp. What makes it stand out in the landscape of Southeast Mandaluyong, or the eastern part of the metropolis for that matter, are the colorful facades employed by each of its buildings, whose heights range from 28 to 32 storeys. There is also a dedicated retail building in the area as well called Madison Square. Plus there are plans to build at least one more tower in the future.
Then there is Empire East, one of the pioneers in transforming Southeast Mandaluyong into what it is today. In fact, they announced what would become the Pioneer Highlands residences back in 2007. But for some reason, Empire East could not get its sh!t together, thus here we are 16 years later at the time of this writing and the development is still far from being completed.
Remnants of an industrial heritage
There are a few companies that have remained and kept the industrial heritage of Southeast Mandaluyong still alive. Notable among these is Comfoods which still has their EDSA factory that manufactures its Ricoa cocoa products and another facility between Pines and Reliance Streets where the Fibisco facility is located. There is also RFM which still has its manufacturing plant near the Pasig River and crossing the boundary with Pasig. UNAHCO, the company behind Thunderbird and Pigrolac, has kept its office and warehouse in Sheridan Street. But these companies were more of an exception than the rule and for the most part, many of the old locators in Southeast Mandaluyong have pretty much abandoned their manufacturing and warehousing operations there.
But as far as the buildings are concerned, there are still a number that remain standing. Some remain abandoned while others have been repurposed to meet the changing demands of the urban landscape either by themselves or by others who have rented out or acquired these facilities. Some old warehouses became outlet stores where consumers can find products at lower prices, which is the case for Automatic Center, Home Factory Outlet, and, of course, HMR. Some became cafes, restaurants, shops, or sports facilities.
The adaptive reuse of these old facilities has given a new lease of life to these places while keeping the industrial heritage of Southeast Mandaluyong alive. If anything, it is nice to see such places standing side by side with the new developments, offering a unique character to this part of the metropolis that is rare to find and appreciate these days.