Every project has its story

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SINCE its inception in 1997, Suntrust Properties, Inc. has become one of the most significant and dynamic real estate companies in the Philippines. From exclusively building residential communities in several Southern Luzon provinces, it has successfully branched out into putting up vertical properties in Metro Manila and massive mixed-use developments.

And the company, a wholly owned subsidiary of a giant in the industry, Megaworld Corp., just keeps going.

Recently, it finished erecting four of the 12 buildings of Suntrust Shanata complex in Quezon City. This Modern Asian cluster of mid-rise buildings, which occupies more than 30,000 square meters (sq. m.) of land along Quirino Avenue, will contain 1,752 affordable residential units upon completion. Meanwhile, the six towers of the resort-inspired Suntrust Parkview in Manila are nearly done. There are three available unit types — studio, two-bedroom and three-bedroom — that range in size from 24 to 48 sq. m.

All land development for Suntrust Ecotown-Tanza in Cavite, the firm’s first-ever mixed-use development and most ambitious real estate project to date, has recently ended. It will cover around 350 hectares of land, more than thrice the size of its current area. The 22 commercial lots in the township are already sold out, and only 31 of the 107 industrial lots remain for sale.

By next year, most, if not all, of the 473 residential units, which range from 30 to 200 sq. m., of Suntrust Capitol Plaza, a 33-storey-tall structure in Quezon City, will have been turned over to their buyers. And Suntrust Asmara (the Indonesian word “asmara” translates as “love”), another development in Quezon City, will have its first tower constructed next year. There will be three in all, and they will feature a combined 1,975 living units.

A follow-up to Suntrust

Ecotown-Tanza is already in the works, and it is called Davao Park District which is a partnership with its parent company Megaworld Corporation. Suntrust will take care of the residential component of the 11-hectare mixed-use development. Recently, all 354 units of the township’s One Lakeshore Drive, were sold.

According to Atty. Harrison M. Paltongan, president of Suntrust, their vertical projects, including some of the aforementioned, are being put up in response to demand from their clients. “But we want to focus more on developing outside the urban centers,” he said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

He noted that one prominent example of that center, Metro Manila, where Suntrust has a number of properties, is beset with problems like heavy traffic. “How do we contribute to solving that? For us the answer is you make your developments outside Metro Manila,” he said.

Suntrust has already established a presence in Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, and Baguio, to name a few. Atty. Paltongan said they are looking to penetrate the real estate markets in the Bicol and Ilocos regions and several provinces in Visayas, including Samar and Leyte. As Suntrust expands into these areas, Atty. Paltongan hopes that they can help address the country’s housing backlog of more than five million units.

This rural expansion is all the more promising because the Philippine government has embarked on a multibillion-peso “Build! Build! Build!” program to remedy the country’s poor and inadequate infrastructure, which is more glaring in the countryside.

“That is what the private developers want — the infrastructure,” Atty. Paltongan said. “Developers should come and be able to provide all of these necessary developments beside all of this infrastructure,” he added.

Whatever Suntrust chooses to build next, and whether or not it can do so successfully, rest primarily on its greatest asset: its people. “That is why everyone involved in our projects must feel that they’re part of this vision to make reliable buildings and houses,” Atty. Paltongan said.

The management does not just a lend a willing ear to what the employees have to say; it actively seeks suggestions from them. Atty. Paltongan said they hold workshops for their employees, where they are asked to come up with recommendations for a project while thinking that they are in charge of it.

But Suntrust also pays attention to ideas of their homebuyers. And all that listening translates into communities that are conceptually different from each other. For example, Suntrust Sentosa in Laguna is Singaporean in style while Suntrust Verona in Cavite is hinged on an Italian concept.

“We are not just building like other real estate developers,” Atty. Paltongan said. By that he meant they are not simply reusing their ideas. Recycling can lead to a dull environment where, in his words, “Everything is the same, the same color, same concept. ”That is not the case with any of Suntrust’s development. “Every project has its own story,” he said. That — combined with flexibility and competitive costing — are what merit Suntrust properties more than a second look.

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