LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 23 (PNA) —- Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal welcomed the start of civil works construction for the P1.5-billion SM-Legazpi, a public-private partnership between Henry Sy’s SM Prime Holdings and the city government, which Rosal said puts Legazpi in the map as a trading hub not just in the Bicol region but possibly in Southern Luzon, and which also promises to generate employment for thousands of people in the provinces.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held on Wednesday for the SM supermall complex at the 5.8-hectare land adjacent to the City Grand Terminal and Ibalong Centrum for Recreation which is at the heart of the city’s central business district in Barangay Bitano.
Bishop Joel Baylon of the diocese of Legazpi blessed the time capsules during the groundbreaking for the three-story complex that will occupy 84,000 square meters of land area.
Rosal said the entry of giant business groups in Legazpi signifies the city as a center of investment in Bicol with the city’s neighboring municipalities and provinces expected to be a strong market for these groups.
He said the city has become a center of trade in Bicol because Legazpi is strategically located, with four million people from the provinces of Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Masbate-—all in Bicol, and the Samar and Leyte provinces in the Visayas, doing their shopping in the city.
“Huwag tayong matakot (let us not be afraid) if we want to be known. We have to be aggressive if we want opportunities to come that would be for everyone,” he said.
He added that “we just don’t see things happen but rather we make thing happen.”
Annie Garcia, president of the SM Super Mall in Legazpi, said the mall is expected to be opened by the second quarter of 2018. She said it will be a typhoon-resilient structure that can withstand strong howlers.
To jump start the project, Garcia said the company would bring in thousands of local and national jobs aside from the other workers that the firm would be bringing in to construct the mall.
She said the company will follow the local ordinance in the hiring of local personnel and will “strive to be the best employers of choice in nurturing the community and serve as a catalyst for growth.”
Rosal said the SM joint venture is a way of decongesting Manila and of providing opportunities for employment in the provinces. “The mall is expected to provide around 4,000 jobs to Legazpeňos and residents from neighboring cities and municipalities.”
He added he will wait for completion of the construction of the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, groundbreaking for which was started in December last year, so that he could establish an economic zone in the current Legazpi airport area that would be vacated.
Rosal said the economic zone could be offered as one whole package to other giant investors from Metro Manila like the Ayala Group of companies, Mega World and other big corporations.
He said the city would remain a top tourism destination in the country’s tourism road map owing to the majestic Mayon Volcano, its resorts, hotels and restaurants.
Rosal said these businesses will create more employment opportunities for the community and contribute to the city’s local coffers by way of business taxes that the city can use for health and social services, infrastructure and environmental projects.
Garcia said the SM mall offers hundreds of stalls that would feature local and high-end merchandises such as shoes, bags, clothing apparels and appliances. There will be hardwares, bookstores, restaurants and coffee shops, she added.
Aside from the stores, the complex would house six state-of-the-art cinema houses and will have a multi-level parking area that can accommodate at least 800 cars.
Including the upcoming SM Mall, Legazpi City would have at least eight major malls. These are the LCC-Ayala Mall, LCC Mall, Metro Pacific Gaisano Mall, Embarcadero, Yashano, 101 Mall and Gregorian Mall.
The LCC (Liberty Commercial Center)-Ayala twin mall is being managed by the Tan Family with the Ayala Group of Companies as its partner while the Gaisano Mall is owned by the Cebu City-based Gaisano family’s group of corporations.
Yashano Mall is owned by the Hong Family while 101 Mall is owned by a local businessman.
The Gregorian Mall, a public-private partnership of the city government and WholeGrain Land Inc. is located at Old Albay District across the City hall building and Albay Cathedral Church while Embarcadero shopping complex, located in the harbor area in the southern part of the city's business district, is owned by businessman Rizaldy Co.
Rosal said the Gokongwei Group of Companies is also planning to construct in the city the Robinson’s Galleria de Legazpi which is patterned after Robinsons Galleria de Cebu.
He said it will also be located at the adjacent area where the SM Super Mall is being built-- in Barangay Bitano.
The four-level shopping mall, which will have a multi-level parking area will house the Summit Hotel, Go Hotel and a Business Process Outsourcing center.
SM-Legazpi is the second SM supermall to be built in the Bicol region after the one in Naga City in Camarines Sur. (PNA) LAP/GVR/EPS/MSA/CBD/EDS