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THE 53RD ROBINSONS MALL was opened on Sept. 24, setting up shop in the resort town and surfing capital of La Union.
The locale’s influences are reflected in Robinsons Place La Union’s decor, as shown in an online press conference on Sept. 22. Murals depicting ocean and surfing lifestyle themes dot the mall, which, with 34,906 square meters of space spread across four levels, is the province’s biggest mall so far.
This is the group’s third shopping complex in the Ilocos region, joining Robinsons Place Ilocos in San Nicolas and Robinsons Place Pangasinan in Calasiao. The mall operator’s other locations in the northern regions of the country include Robinsons Place Santiago and in Tuguegarao.
“All of those malls have been doing very well, and that’s why we are confident that Robinsons Place La Union will also be a successful mall,” said Arlene Magtibay, SVP and Robinsons Malls BUGM.
The location itself is an ace up their sleeves. More than its reputation as a seaside resort, La Union’s San Fernando — the provincial capital where the mall is located — happens to be the regional center of Region I (which includes the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan). “San Fernando is easily the center of trade and commerce of the province. All of the businesses are practically located here,” said Ms. Magtibay.
RISING DURING THE PANDEMIC
The mall, which began general construction in March 2019, also suffered unavoidable setbacks due to the pandemic. “This mall is probably the most challenging that we’ve had to build,” said Ms. Magtibay. Remembering when the mall first began construction, “At that time, we were very confident that we would be able to open the mall in 2020.”
But then, she said, their deadlines kept getting pushed further because of pandemic-related restrictions, the difficulties of getting materials to La Union; not to mention the risk of the COVID-19 virus itself.
“On the tenant’s side, it was also difficult for our leasing department to bring the tenants to La Union,” she said. While distance was a factor, she added, “More than that, there were restrictions on travel, and people were really very wary about going anywhere far.
“We’re just really grateful that despite the hardships that we face, we are now at this point where we are ready to open Robinsons Place La Union,” she said.
As such, amenities and protocols that have been set throughout Robinsons Malls across the country because of the pandemic also apply in La Union, including wearing face shields and masks, signs reminding people of health protocols, having sanitation teams, and roving safety marshals.
On the bright side, Robinsons Place La Union is the pilot mall for the mall group’s first kids’ bathroom. Other amenities include a baby care room, a PWD-friendly layout with ramps and special parking, and a bike parking and repair station. The mall includes four cinemas, a 344-seater Eat Street food hall, and an outdoor Sky Deck.
Meanwhile, environmental concerns are also put to the fore with a partnership with the La Union City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), where recyclables are collected and turned over to the Eco Waste Association, a local group which upcycles plastics and converts them to plastic plant boxes. A sewage treatment plant aims to recycle water, while the mall uses LED lighting for energy efficiency.
Another highlight of Robinsons Place La Union are the local entrepreneurs that will occupy its space. Ms. Magtibay estimates that about 70% of their tenants will be micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs). When the mall is fully operational, it will have about 135 stores.
Local entrepreneurs on their list include Taco Tito’s, Gem’s Empanada Ilocandia, Sagat Crust Food House, Pasarabo, Seashack, Lorma Life Check Clinic, Dr. Brows, and Luxe Derm Skin Care Clinic, among others.
“All of the malls that we’ve opened, we really try our best to involve the local entrepreneurs. We believe that we should be all-inclusive. It’s not just about bringing in the national brands and the international chains. Wherever we put up a mall, we have to make sure that we include the local community,” said Ms. Magtibay. “It’s also because a lot of them are actually very good.”
“We really would want to help these MSMEs because as we all know, that’s really the backbone of our economy,” she said. “It’s been a very symbiotic relationship. Even as we support them, the mall ends up being more interesting.” — Joseph L. Garcia