Revitalizing Colon St.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014


HOW many times in the past years have I heard Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama talk about revitalizing Colon St.? Many times already, and the repetition is bordering on the monotonous. I’d rather that the mayor and the downtown revitalization team that he created years ago would walk the talk and show concrete results of their work.

Rama started pushing for the revitalization of Colon, the oldest street in the country, when he was still vice mayor. Among the goals listed: installation of historical markers, improving peace and order, lessening traffic snarls and boosting business along the stretch.

As one who frequents Colon, I did see some change in the area, but it wasn’t much. It was amidst Rama’s revitalization push when markers were installed in spots where old structures once stood. Some firms, specifically Colonnade and Oriente, upgraded the look of their establishments.

Brooding corners, like the one near where the old Cinema theater was located and where prostitutes lurk at night, were lit with big sodium lamps. There was a time when barangay tanod detachments were set up in strategic locations to deter the commission of crimes—those are gone now.

It was also in the initial phases of the revitalization push when the annual “Fiesta sa Colon” was conceived. During the fiesta, part of Colon is closed to traffic at night and vendors selling cheap merchandise (and even grilled food) and their customers take over the stretch.

Traffic in nearby streets becomes a nightmare during this period, but commuters seem to have learned to bear it through the years.

Yet Colon St. has remained chaotic despite the revitalization push, and the familiar sight there is still of people maneuvering through passageways narrowed by vendors occupying the sidewalks. And even if some establishments improved their look, one problem remains: they still didn’t have parking spaces for their customers.

Soon, some businesses either closed shop or burned down. Replacing them were establishments selling cheap commodities. Vision Theater became a hub of pirated CDs and DVDs. At the ground floor of the old Metrobank building sprouted stalls selling cell phones and phone accessories and where CDs were burned and electronic gadgets repaired.

One department store that closed shop was taken over by an establishment that sells cheap commodities and business became brisk. The structure of a department store that was razed by a fire was torn down and became a parking area. Part of it was occupied by stalls selling pirated DVDs and CDs, another part became an eatery.

But the change did boost business in Colon. For a while, I thought that the street was destined to be the enclave of the masa and the average people like you and me. Indeed, when I am looking for a cheap buy, I shy away from the big malls and go to Colon.

I even thought that major fast-food chains are not for the area. Branches of Greenwich, Jollibee and Chowking closed shop. But then branches of McDonalds (three as of the last count), Chowking (set up in another spot in Colon), Jollibee (another branch, making it three branches), Mang Inasal, etc. sprouted.

It did look like the pendulum was swinging to another direction. Indeed, when I saw last week the McDonalds branch in Oriente, I thought it changed the look of the small mall. Now, Colon has a new Gaisano South (rising from the ashes of its burned structure), and Super Metro. For the first time, the area has two stores with adequate parking spaces.

I don’t know how the most recent changes will affect the “old guards” in Colon, like Gaisano Main, Gaisano Metro and Colonnade. But if the Gaisano South and Super Metro experiments works, then this could spark the true revitalization of Colon.

The one thing Rama and his Colon revitalization team can do now is to prop up this change by improving the look of the entire stretch, intensifying the maintenance of law and order, and making the place consumer-friendly—and then finding out if Colon will finally do a Lazarus.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 01, 2014.

Opinion

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