A ‘game changer’
Hotel investment seen to bring in more investors, put more life to Cebu City’s ‘real downtown area’
Long before the developments in business districts in the city, the downtown area of Cebu City was the bustling center of commerce and industry for many decades.
The first big businesses opened in the downtown area which also houses the country’s oldest street – Colon Street.
But now, these buildings have become rundown, with fading facades and standing on streets that are filled with ambulant vendors. There was also a time when the downtown area became infamous for pickpockets and dirty streets.
Nonetheless, a new property has risen in the heart of this seemingly forgotten area.
A property that a business leader described as a “game changer” in the “real downtown area” of Cebu City.
Towering at 16 floors, One Central Hotel is the newest development in downtown Cebu City.
Located at the corner of Leon Kilat Street and Sanciangko Street, the hotel has been in soft operation since April and had its grand opening last Thursday, October 4.
“The birth of this hotel links our city’s colorful past to the future of our city’s position as a preferred destination for travel and business,” said the hotel’s Chief Executive Officer Steven Yu during the launching.
“We want to help arouse travelers’ curiosity into the city’s history as the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines,” he added.
One Central Hotel has 157 guest rooms, meeting rooms, and a grand ballroom for intimate gatherings and grand celebrations.
It also has a high-level pool that offers a panoramic view of the city and the Mactan Channel as well as a fitness gym, and an all-day dining restaurant — Cafe Tartanilla.
The hotel is managed by Bluewater Hospitality which operates several resorts including Bluewater Maribago, Sumilon, and Panglao in Bohol.
What makes the hotel unique is it is integrated to three-level mall, named One Central Mall.
The mall houses a variety of tenants from food to dry goods to services which is designed to complement the hotel’s operations as well as the needs of their guests.
The basement houses a mini-grocery, pawnshop, and bazaar tenants; the ground floor has restaurants, food kiosks, a coffee shop, ATM and other service; while the second floor is occupied by telco stores, a massage parlor, beauty parlor, remittance centers, money changer, dry goods, and a food court.
“The main purpose is to offer convenience to travelers so they do not have to go out of the hotel tower complex for their basic needs. On the side, we also want to offer an alternative ambience and convenience to students and office workers in the area,” Yu said.
Prior to becoming a hotel tower, the area where One Central Hotel stands used to house the Yu family’s 70-year-old lumber business — Luzon Lumber.
According to Yu, he bought the property from his grandaunts who gave him one condition: Not to sell it to somebody else.
Seeing the prospects in the area, Yu said, he decided to develop a hotel in order to ride on the tourism wave being experienced by Cebu.
The same spot also used to be the location of the old Cebu’s Central Train Station and had become the epicenter of trade and commerce, as well as a witness to Cebu’s modernization. Hence, the name One Central Hotel.
Currently, Yu said they also wanted to highlight the downtown area’s rich history to their guests.
From the hotel, guests can just walk all the way to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the Magellan’s Cross, the Fort San Pedro, Casa Gorordo and Parian.
For convenience, the hotel is also just a five-minute walk from the South Bus Terminal wherein guests can just hop on a bus and go to the many tourist spots in the south like the whale shark watching and Bluewater Sumilon Island resort in Oslob, Kawasan Falls and canyoneering in Badian and Alegria, and the many waterfalls in Samboan.
During the hotel’s grand opening, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Antonio Chiu lauded the Yu family for investing in the “real downtown Cebu” which he said had been kind of overlooked in recent years.
Chiu described the development as a “game changer” in the area.
“In about two to three years, there will be a new bridge connecting downtown Cebu City to Cordova in Mactan. Hopefully, this investment, by the Yu family, will be an eye opener for other investors to revisit the real downtown Cebu and put more life to Cebu City,” Chiu said.
Property management and research firm Colliers International Philippines has been encouraging developers to invest in tourism-related and hospitality projects to take advantage of the continued increase in tourist arrivals in Cebu and the rest of the region.
When sought for comment on One Central Hotel’s opening, Colliers research manager Joey Bondoc said other developers should also look into opportunities in this area.
“This is an interesting hotel project. The developer should emphasize the cultural and historical aspects of their building,” Bondoc said.
“Moving forward, developers should explore other historical structures that could be redeveloped into boutique hotels, for instance,” he added.
On the other hand, Bondoc recommended that local governments should tout an attractive set of incentives to potential developers to encourage more investors.
He said they had also seen this trend in downtown Manila.
For Cebu, which also has rich cultural heritage, doing this is also not surprising.
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