The mall that started it all: Celebrating 25 years of SM City North EDSA
25 reasons why SM City North Edsa is still exciting after 25 years
You have to have a dream, whether big or small. Then plan well, focus, work hard, and be very determined to achieve your goals. There is no substitute for hard work. There is no such thing as overnight success or easy money. — SM Group founder Henry Sy, Sr.
Although born in Manila and with the first seven years of my childhood in historic Tondo district, all my life has been spent in the colorful and dynamic world of Quezon City. It’s amazing to realize that despite the mushrooming of glitzy Makati and Ortigas, the vast reclamation area of the Mall of Asia and SMX, The Fort and other urban centers of Metro Manila, visionary business taipan Henry Sy’s first-ever mall project SM City North Edsa in Quezon City is still very exciting after 25 years. Ever since it opened on Nov. 8, 1985 during a period of political and economic crises, SM North Edsa has forever revolutionized malling as a lifestyle for the Philippines. Why is it still exciting? Here are 25 reasons:
1. SM North Edsa is ever-changing and reinventing itself. Through the years, anyone passing along EDSA highway can’t help but marvel at the physical changes and beautifications happening to this huge complex. It’s like a block of Lego geometric toys being constantly rearranged and added upon by an artist. In the Annex, the exterior is covered by wavy green-colored cladding and glass windows. The main building called the City Center has added a unique dome to what used to look like an austere and efficient shoebox edifice from yesteryear. SM hired America’s Arquitectonica firm for various elegant renovations. What will Henry Sy add or change next?
2. Mass transit crossroads. Metro Manila’s Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) next year will converge in front of this mall, with the opening of the “SM City North Edsa Grand Station.” Target opening is third quarter of 2011.
3. With 425,000 square meters in floor area, it’s the country’s largest mall and one of the largest in the world. The total land area is 16 hectares.
4. Tourism Secretary Alberto “Bertie” Lim should list this mall as one of the Philippines’ tourist wonders due to the sheer number of people making it a daily fiesta place! The average foot traffic of this mall is 350,000 to 400,000 per day, and this huge number goes up to half million people per day during their humongously popular sales weekends and during holidays. The number of people who go to SM North EDSA is larger than the population of some countries. Now, that’s a great example of people power.
5. Huge, easy and convenient parking spaces. This mall has 5,000 parking slots!
6. Strategic prime location. Not only is SM North Edsa the premier mall in the center of the Philippines’ most heavilypopulated city, it is also the gateway to north of Metro Manila such as Bulacan, Tarlac and Pampanga where many of the residents often come to shop or relax despite the existence of SM and other malls in their provinces.
7. Bus terminals at the mall. One brilliant feature of the mall is its bus terminals, so shoppers and other people can take public transport rides home anytime of day or night.
8. Disabled-friendly mall. This mall is a pioneer in designing its public areas for the convenience of disabled, sick or elderly people who use wheelchairs. It also trains its personnel and tenants to assist disabled customers.
9. Its blockbuster cinemas. SM City North-EDSA’s cinemas have been known to emerge as top grossers during the annual Metro Manila Film Festival. This reinforces Quezon City’s claim to the title of the “Showbiz Capital of the Philippines.”
10. The Philippines’ No. 1 most popular department store. The fourlevel SM Department Store here in this mall is said to have one of the highest sales volume of all department stores nationwide. This is Henry Sy’s favorite place to inspect, especially the shoes and bag sections.
11. The Philippines’ second IMAX movie theater. After the opening of the first IMAX cinema at Mall of Asia, this IMAX here is the second of only two in the Philippines.
12. The Block. This is QC’s version of The Podium. Opening in July 2006, it houses five floors of international-brand shops and specialty restos catering to “a higher niche but not super snooty,” according to SM. It’s upscale, but still not intimidating to the mass market.
13. Skygarden. Opened in May 2009, this oasis of greenery, water features, an amphitheater with retail shops and al fresco dining outlets have become an urban landmark.
14. Interior Zone. Anything one needs for a home or office is here, including art galleries.
15. Cyberzone. On the fourth and fifth floors of SM Annex, it’s the place for computers and other high-tech stuff. On the sixth floor are call centers.
16. Grass Residences connected to mall. Designed by Architect Albert S. Yu of ASYA Design, this project of five towers with 3,000 residential condo units will be connected to the mall via an exclusive covered and elevated pedestrian bridge.
17. Medical and dental facilities. This mall has dental, medical and other health facilities including an ambulatory health clinic.
18. Religious services. It’s fascinating how not a few Protestant or Catholic cathedrals and churches in Europe have become concert halls or just museums, while here in still religious Philippine society we have Henry Sy and his religious wife Felicidad Tan-Sy holding Sunday Masses inside their malls like SM North Edsa! Pray while you shop.
19. Possibly the biggest food court in the Philippines. Fifty tenants offer affordable and wideranging Asian, Western and Filipino cuisines for shoppers.
20. “We’ve got it all” promise. One can buy almost everything from cars to houses and condos at SM North Edsa. During a recent dinner meeting at The Block’s Gloria Maris resto, I saw that the mall even had a display area selling posh Audi cars.
21. Health clubs. Years ago when I wanted to exercise on a treadmill, I’d often go to Slimmers World at The Annex across from the bingo center. It’s still inside the mall at another location. Since the Fitness First gym at the ABS-CBN building where I run on a treadmill closes earlier during weekends like 6 p.m. on Sundays, I’d go to SM North Edsa’s The Block where the Fitness First is open as long as the mall is open — up to 10 p.m.
22. Exciting restaurants. For food lovers like this writer, this mall has a mind-boggling array of choices in terms of cuisines, ambience and prices. Entrepreneur Johnlu Koa told this writer he opened his first French Baker at SM North Edsa in 1989 and it’s now a chain. Koa said: “I hope to have 40 stores by end of the year and am happy that 90 percent of these are at SM.” One of the newer additions is La Mesa Grill owned by Senator Kiko Pangilinan and which opened in June last year at the Skygarden.
23. Beauty and grooming centers. Barbershops, hair salons, massage spas, slimming centers and others for women and men can be found at SM North Edsa. A pioneer is “rags-toriches’ salon tycoon Ricky Reyes who has for the past 25 years expanded his venture here into an empire. Reyes said: “I fondly call Henry Sy as Tatang, he is not only a business icon and mentor, but someone who has become very much like a father to me”.
24. Entertainment center. SM North Edsa is not just a mall, it has also always been a center for wholesome and fun entertainment. Very much like the town plazas, SM North Edsa is an air-conditioned place where people of all ages go to be entertained. Starting in the mid-1980s, future superstars of showbiz like Regine Velasquez, Vina Morales and others also started their careers singing in this mall at the former Viva’s Circus Circus lounge, which SM executives say is now the second-floor bridge of the main building going to the Skygarden. Today, top foreign and local entertainers have performances at the Sky Dome.
25. Efficient and friendly SM staff. Though not a five-star hotel or a high-end shopping center, it is heartening that over the years that I’ve gone to this mall, I’ve found the ordinary salesladies, salesmen, security guards, janitors, managers and other staff of SM North Edsa to be friendly and service-oriented. Perhaps they have imbibed the humility and legendary work ethic of their founder Henry Sy, Sr. and his kids?