EDSA’s Valuable Lessons to SM

The importance and value of EDSA, an acronym for Epifanio de Los Santos, have long been known to entrepreneur Henry Sy who started investing heavily along the highway as early as the 1970s. Back then, his son, a young Henry “Big Boy” Sy, Jr. even remembers riding the bike from his house in Forbes to the family’s Shoemart store in Makati across EDSA. During that time, EDSA meant just a few cars traversing two lanes and a shoulder with plenty of open spaces.

“Thirty years ago, people thought that Avenida (in Manila) was the main thoroughfare. But my dad had the vision to go farther. That’s why we started building stores in Cubao and in Makati. We saw that SM would play a very important role,” Henry Jr. said.

Today, EDSA is Metro Manila’s busiest thoroughfare and an intricate 24-kilometer, 10-lane network of vehicles, footbridges, MRT lines, viaducts, and commuters that traverses malls, hospitals, schools, and churches in at least five of the most densely populated cities in Metro Manila. It accommodates, on average, a million vehicles a day.

It was apparent to the elder Sy that EDSA meant opportunities for business. EDSA is connected to the 16 major cities in Metro Manila which have an estimated total population of over 11.5 million. It directly traverses cities like Caloocan, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Pasay, among the most populous cities in the metro, and would therefore be an important thoroughfare in bringing about business and consumer activity.

Connecting the SM Dots along EDSA

SM’s founder, Henry Sy, Sr. spotted fertile ground on a 16-hectare marshland in Quezon City which was to be the birthplace of his first shopping mall, SM City North EDSA. Constructed at the height of a political crisis in the middle of nowhere, Mr. Sy focused on completing the project. His vision unseen by most observers who thought that developing a mall that size was foolish and ill-timed, SM North EDSA eventually opened its doors in 1985. Its only tenants at the start were SM’s fifth department store and its very first supermarket. Yet, people came in droves, curious to see what a mall that size had to offer. Other tenants followed suit as SM’s loyal customers kept going back. Today, it is SM Prime’s second largest mall with 457,403 sqm and draws a footfall of about 418,135 visitors a day.

Having proven everyone wrong, the success of SM North EDSA inspired Mr. Sy to embarked on another ambitious project along EDSA. He bought a site in Ortigas Complex following a dramatic bid where he lost a corner lot to a rival. Not to be dissuaded from his vision, Mr. Sy built SM Megamall and again opened at the height of a crisis, this time on energy, in 1991. Just like SM North EDSA, SM Megamall drew large crowds and has since gone through a few expansions to become the largest mall in the country today with 474,225 sqm in gross floor area.

Mr. Sy must have thought at some point that with SM North EDSA and SM Megamall, he only covered half of the 24-kilometer stretch that this road traversed. For those familiar with SM’s founder, they know that he never stops dreaming. EDSA is a catchment of provincial traffic. What happened on the northern side of EDSA is bound to happen in the south. This made him embark on a reclamation project in Pasay, well beyond the southern tip of EDSA and is now the 60-hectare site where sits the SM Mall of Asia, his biggest mall project back in 2006, but now the third largest.

In this area too, Mr. Sy’s vision of building master-planned communities came to light. There is value in urban planning and the proper execution of a well-laid out design for a mixed-use complex that offered socio-civic, entertainment, business, and residential spaces. That vision continues to unfold with the mall still expanding and enjoying addition footfall from the complex’s church goers and those coming from the SMX Convention Center, the Mall of Asia Arena, the three E-Com buildings, the Sea, Shell and Shore Residences, the Microtel and very soon from the Conrad Manila Hotel.

With his biggest dreams coming into fruition from the northern to the southern parts of EDSA, this thoroughfare has become one of SM’s most valuable track. Quite literally and figuratively, EDSA paved SM’s road to success. Over the course of time, other SM properties emerged.

Growth corridor

Adding to the value of properties along EDSA is the growth of central business districts accessible to the main highway. Growth corridor

Julius Guevara, Colliers International Philippines Director for Research and Advisory Services said EDSA played a dramatic role in giving birth to business districts in Makati, Ortigas, Bonifacio Global City, and now, up north in Quezon City, and down south in Pasay City.

“We now consider Quezon City as an emerging business district as it has a lot of commercial developments, retail centers, office spaces and BPO offices which have grown over the past decade. The Manila Bay area is also growing and making a name for itself. We think they will continuously grow as business and entertainment districts,” Guevara said.

Henry Jr. supports this when he said, “There will be expansion in the north and the south because there is increased urbanization.”

Lessons from EDSA

The development of SM’s malls on EDSA was one of the biggest and best business lessons taught by the elder Sy to his children.

EDSA made them think out of the box, to be visionaries, exercise patience, stay focused and take calculated risks. SM’s largest malls opened during times of crisis along this avenue. Yet, to this day, they are SM’s most successful and profitable malls. Add to that, other successful SM stores and residences such as The SM STORE in Makati, the Light Residences near Shaw and SM Hypermarket in Cubao, among others.

Henry Jr. recalled, “My dad always believed in the Philippines and in the future of this country. He taught us that if we could survive bad times, what more the good times. EDSA proved him right.”