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Eton scraps golf project, eyes middle market

Friday, December 26,2008 [ ]

ETON Properties Philippines Inc. said it has changed its mind and scrapped its high-end, golf and residential projects amid the downturn in the economy.

Danilo Ignacio, Eton president, said the company decided to forego its 150-hectare golf and village in Eton City, Santa Rosa, Laguna, in favor of middle income housing projects within the development site. “Middle income housing will be our priority. These homes are a basic need and these are targeted at end-users and not for speculation,” he said.

Based on earlier pronouncements, the golf course would be built on the opposite end of the lake village within the 1000-hectare Eton City project. A subdivision called Golf Village would surround the golf course to give homeowners a view of the greens. A medium-rise building for residential condominiums and a resort-hotel within the golf course were also in the pipeline.

Earlier, an Asian Institute of Management professor on real estate said residential resorts would languish in this crisis since the “second home” market is weakening given the predominance of US buyers, many of whom are being laid off or tightening their belts. Farm lots are also passé as well as golf communities, as previous investors are still “hurting” from their experience after the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

“We would be very cautious [next year]. It’s cautious optimism until such time the situation clears up,” Ignacio said.

Because of that, Eton will defer the launch of three to four projects next year, most of which are vertical or high-rise condominium buildings. Instead the company will finish 17 projects that had been launched the past two years and focus on existing customers.

Among these projects are the first phase of the “affordable” North Belton, Lake Village in Eton City, the business process outsourcing building in Centris station where an SM Hypermarket will rise, Centris Walk and the three buildings in the Corinthian project. The company had planned to complete 15 buildings and two horizontal projects next year.

“We will launch projects when the opportunity arises. Not just for the sake of launching,” Ignacio said.

He said other developers are in the same boat, deferring the launch of new projects as it is more prudent to adopt a “wait and see” attitude during these times of uncertainties.

One of the opportunities that it sees is developing the property adjacent to the Philippine School of Business Administration along Aurora Boulevard and Katipunan Avenue for mixed use. Ignacio said the company is studying whether it can put up 5- to 7-story medium rise residential building in the property.

He said there is a potential glut in office space within one to two years “but hopefully [the situation] will correct itself.”

The retail business however is a “bright spot” in an otherwise gloomy real- estate industry, he said. Ignacio said they are grabbing this opportunity to finish the SM Hypermarket and Corinthian E-Life both in Quezon City and the retail space in One Archer’s Place in Manila.--Likha C. Cuevas-Miel


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