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SM pushes mall project in General Santos


Monday, May 18, 2009 [ sunstar.com.ph ]

SM PRIME Holdings Inc. forged a lease agreement for an eight-hectare property in General Santos, as rival Gokongwei-owned Robinsons sets the start of commercial operations within the year.

Mayor Pedro B. Acharon Jr. said the Salazar family has agreed to let SM construct a mall on its property on Santiago Boulevard.

"Both parties have already signed the [lease] contract; I don't have the other details of the project," he said, noting he talked with a representative of the Salazar family.

SM Prime officials or the Salazar family could not be immediately reached for comment.

Local reports said SM Prime reportedly plans to lease the property for 50 years from the landowner.

Acharon said the giant mall operator has started drawing up a construction plan for its building.

Although SM Prime has yet to file for building and other permits, Acharon said its entry will be a big boost to the city's economy.

Pilar T. Afuang, local business chamber executive director, echoed the sentiments of the official, saying its presence is another indication of the city's economic viability.

"Our board of directors talked with the landowner and they were expected to vacate the premises by May. Clearing operations are already ongoing," she said.

Earlier, SM Prime officials had a meeting with the local government unit to discuss the project.

"It's 80 to 90 percent sure that SM is putting up a branch here...and this is a welcome development. Their people had discussed the project with the local government," Acharon earlier said.

The intention of SM Prime to set up a multi-million peso mall here comes in the heels of the looming operation of rival Gokongwei-owned Robinsons Place-General Santos.

The Robinsons branch in this city, dubbed the "Tuna Capital of the Philippines," has taken shape and is slated to operate within the year.

Last year, SM Prime announced it is looking for a lease manager for its SM City-General Santos branch.

Acharon said there is "no problem" as to the business viability of the project but pointed out a concern coming from micro and small entrepreneurs in the locality.

With the entry of big shopping malls, these micro and small entrepreneurs fear they will be displaced.

“But I told them this can be an opportunity for them...that they should think big or reevaluate their strategies to keep pace with the competition brought by these big stores,” the mayor said.

In the Davao and Iloilo experience, Acharon said micro and small entrepreneurs managed to adjust in a “matter of six months” after giant malls started operating in the cities.

With SM mall around, this will bring to four the operators of big shopping malls in the city.

Construction of Robinsons Place-General Santos, at a reported cost of P2 billion, has been going full blast in the past several months.

The other two malls operating at this city for years are Gaisano Mall and KCC Mall. (BSS)

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