All roads led to Talisay City in Negros Occidental recently for the opening of the new community center of Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI). Residents from the nearby towns and Bacolod City headed to The District North Point—which offers a mix of local and foreign apparel brands, and dining options.
Although people continued arriving until late at night, the venue never got too cramped because of the open space between the two commercial clusters that serves as a corte (plaza) and an events venue.
The 26,725-sq m property has a one-story building connected to the anchor supermarket, Metro Gaisano, which will open soon. The second building houses select retail and service outlets.
ALI’s strategy is to develop mixed-use properties, and The District is no different. Even before construction could start, residential subdivisions were already part of the master plan.
“This strategy has long been followed by ALI. Even in Makati, the subdivisions came first. This was followed by the retail component; it completes the story,” ALI president Antonino Aquino told Inquirer Lifestyle at the opening.
South of The District is at the Gen. A. Lacson Extension road which leads to the Ayala North point, Verdana, Plantazionne and Verdana Asya subdivisions. The third component of this mixed-use property is the BPO building.
“When we develop any property, we see to it that it is never a stand-alone. We first prepare an integrated community plan since we want to reach out to more people. As the area grows and the community develops, more components can come in,” Aquino said.
Plans to put up a cinema are gaining ground. Originally, only a small amusement center for children had been factored into the merchant mix.
What tourists might find exciting is the selection of dining establishments that offer al fresco dining. Homegrown restaurant chains such as Bob’s enjoyed brisk business when it opened at The District, as locals and visitors ordered from a menu of favorites like Sate Babi, steaks and ribs.
Café Bob, which shares restaurant space with Bob’s, sells cakes and pastries.
“When we were planning what kind of food to offer at Bob’s at The District, my sisters and I decided to stick to the favorites but include wines and a few select dishes,” said owner Catherine Sicangco Hagad. She and her sisters, who travel to Manila often, liked what they saw at High Street and Serendra at Bonifacio Global City.
“We wanted to do the same thing for Bob’s where people could linger over dinner, savor their wine and have dessert,” said Cynthia Sicangco Magalona, Hagad’s sister.
Calea is another homegrown establishment with a stellar selection of cakes and pastries.
“My vision in establishing Calea was to offer reasonably priced desserts without sacrificing quality. Even as our selection has expanded over the years, I still take pride in the fact that every cake we produce is homemade and handmade,” Calea proprietor Ging Consing said in an earlier interview. Three to try include their Imported Chocolate Cake, Blueberry Cheesecake and White Chocolate Cheesecake.
Not all the local food brands opted for a restaurant. El Ideal bakery from Silay and Virgie’s Homemade Food Products from Bacolod City chose to set up kiosks since they sell mainly packaged delicacies such as butterscotch, pies and cookies.
Mark Henriko V. Sanchez is a member of the fourth generation of the family that started El Ideal in the 1920s.
“We made our cassava pie less firm after our older clients said biting into a slice put too much of a strain on their teeth. It is now one of their bestsellers that include Guapple Pie and Coconut Pie,” Sanchez said.
The woman behind the popular Virgie’s Homemade Food Products, Virginia O. Chua, was also at the opening of The District. She started her small business almost 40 years ago, in 1974, to augment the family income.
“I usually consign my products such as the Napoleones and Mango tarts to stores selling assorted pasalubong. I decided it was time to put up my first kiosk because clients had been telling me that Bacolod City was too far away. Now, The District is more accessible to them,” Chua said.
“Whenever we open a retail center, we make it a point to advocate 10-15 percent of local concepts,” ALI vice president and head of operations for commercial business group Rowena Tomeldan said.
In Visayas and Mindanao, local restaurants are very popular but residents are also open to trying something new. This was noted by Emilio Tumbocon, ALI SVP and group head of Visayas and Mindanao.
With the opening of The District North Point, residents can now check out nationwide-chain restaurants such as Sumosam, Yellow Cab, Army Navy, Breadtalk and Seafood Island.
“This is not the end of the story. The District North Point will evolve and expand based on the needs of the community,” Tumbocon said.