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Tutuban opens virtual zoo, more developments on the drawing board

IT’S business as usual at Tutuban Center Mall a month after a fire hit the Cluster 1 building. Operator Prime Orion Philippines Inc. inaugurated over the weekend a mall-based virtual zoo as part of the upcoming projects within the 8.5-hectare development in Divisoria.


Prime Orion assistant vice president for business development-properties Ernie M. Hilario Jr. told reporters that the virtual zoo is expected to help boost the dwindling number of customers following the mammoth blaze that displaced at least 200 tenant-stores and destroyed millions of pesos worth of goods.

Foot traffic in Tutuban Center dropped between 10 percent and 12 percent in September compared with that of the previous year, Hilario said. Customers, especially those from the provinces, thought the entire shopping center stopped operations because of the fire.

“Talagang nag-drop, lalo na noong unang dalawang linggo pagkatapos ng sunog kasi ang alam nila sunog lahat ng Tutuban [The foot traffic dropped, especially in the first two weeks after the fire, because they thought it’s the entire Tutuban that was burned down],” he said. “[The burnt shopping cluster] is just one of the seven buildings in Tutuban.”

With the opening of the virtual zoo, Prime Orion not only wants to show that operation is now back to normal, but it also aims to “pre-market” a plan to convert the cinema area into a recreation site.

The Tutuban Center Virtual Zoo is a collage of “larger-than-life” 3D photos of animals like crocodiles to spiders, tigers, turtles, sharks, bats, elephants and lions mounted on the walls of the cinema lobby on the fourth floor of the main mall.

While the concept is not original, Hilario said what separates it apart from other similar attractions is that it’s bigger and is open to the public free of charge.

Lakang Dayang—a group composed of Fine Arts students and professors from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines—was commissioned to illustrate 12 life-like images of animals.

Prime Orion spent a little over P1 million for the virtual zoo, which forms part of the P1-billion expansion projects in the pipeline.

Hilario disclosed that the company intends to convert two of the four stalled movie houses owned and operated by SM Cinema into a safari theme park, while each of the remaining two theaters would be transformed into a sports arena and a stadium. The entire recreation area is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2013.

A three-star Orion Hotel at the left wing of the third floor of Tutuban’s Primeblock building is also expected to be fully operational on November 30. Another boutique hotel is scheduled to open after 2015.

To provide shoppers from other provincial areas easy access to the mall, Prime Orion will expand the bus terminal at the back of the shopping mall. At present, the transportation area services at most 2,500 commuters from Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga. With the new terminal, the firm expects to double the capacity for travelers.

“This [new expansion project] excludes developments in the new area of about 11.5 hectares, which is still in the planning stage,” said Hilario.

(Roderick L. Abad)







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