Developer Cebu Landmasters, Inc. (CLI) gave in to the clamor for the adaptive re-use of the 65-year-old Patria de Cebu building and presented a revised design of its redevelopment project on June 10, 2019, more than five months after it was supposed to start construction.
The revised design, which retains the main Patria building, has been approved by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the developer said in a statement sent to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) on June 10.
With the NHCP nod, CLI said it targets to start construction of an integrated shopping center, office and hotel structure in October 2019. Commercial operations are targeted to start in July 2022.
The development will mark CLI’s foray into hotel operations and management. It is also seen to spur development in the surrounding areas, especially other properties owned by the Archdiocese of Cebu.
“The final design of Patria de Cebu is a collaboration between the Archdiocese of Cebu, CLI and key stakeholders. It was agreed that it is crucial in the redevelopment to keep the main Patria building while integrating it with a new practical structure to preserve the heritage of the Patria for the people of Cebu,” CLI president and CEO Jose R. Soberano III said.
“Through this project, we will celebrate Cebuano history and culture,” he added.
The company, with concurrence from the Archdiocese, had originally targeted to demolish the building in January this year and start construction of a new mixed-use structure shortly after the site is cleared to provide a centerpiece for the 500th year celebration of Christianity in Cebu in 2021.
Heritage advocates led by Architect Melva Java and independent editor Eileen G. Mangubat, however, opposed the demolition and pushed for the adaptive re-use of a portion of the building to preserve its heritage and keep the spirit of youth volunteerism alive.
Besides, the building could not be demolished unless it is delisted first as a Presumed Important Cultural Property based on the National Cultural Heritage Act or Republic Act 10066, which protects structures dating at least 50 years old and other cultural properties. Any development would have to be coordinated with the NHCP, commission chairman Rene R. Escalante said in separate letters to Java and Mangubat in March 2019. The delisting process would have delayed the project further.
The Patria, which stands on a property owned by the Archdiocese, was a youth recreation center that Catholic students helped build in the early 50s. The students, all members of Church-backed youth organization Student Catholic Action, said a Hail Mary prayer after molding a hollow block for the building. These blocks came to be known as the Ave Maria blocks.
The students also helped raise funds for the construction of the building and facilitated the relocation of informal settlers who were occupying the project site, which is located across the historic Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral near Cebu City’s waterfront area.
CLI had proposed to develop the 6,670-square-meter Patria property into a mixed-use structure with a shopping center, office spaces and a hotel. The project was estimated to cost P900 million.
Under the revised design, the main building will be renovated to accommodate retail and office spaces in the ground and second floors.
It will have approximately 21,000 square meters of gross floor area, divided as follows: 4,320 sq.m. of retail spaces featuring a mix of food, dining and entertainment establishments; 4,400 sq.m. of office space; and 11,700 sq.m. of hotel space for approximately 167 guest rooms with provision for events, meetings, and other functions.
Instead of a piazza with a fountain as originally envisioned, the focal point of this mixed-used development will be a large central interior courtyard highlighted by a roof top for open-air events.
The revised design is still inspired by the rich Filipino-Spanish culture, history and architecture as exemplified by the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, seat of the Cebu Archdiocese and the first Christian church that was built in Cebu.
Fr. Brian Brigoli, chairman of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, said the retention of the original structure of the front of Patria complex is a “product of a conscientious dialogue” among stakeholders.
“The old structure will not just blend with the new development but also make the two work together as one; where the former is never a hindrance to the latter and the new structure respects the old,” Brigoli said.
CLI and the Archdiocese of Cebu entered into a lease contract in October 2018, allowing the developer to lease the property for 40 years.
On top of paying rent, CLI will also provide free office spaces for the various commissions and offices of the Archdiocese.
From its origins as a youth recreation center, Patria de Cebu has been used as a convent for nuns, and finally as a budget-friendly hostel for city visitors needing clean, safe yet inexpensive accommodations. At the same time, it housed several offices of the Archdiocese, which had to relocate by end-2018 to pave the way for the redevelopment project. (Ventures Cebu)