The CBD of Davao City


By  Cha Monforte

CBD for the Central Business District is the urban core of a place, say a city, where most of its citizens first conglomerate to live, transact, work, buy and sell. It’s the downtown for cities, or the poblacion for towns, the city or town proper. It’s the place that got urbanized first among other areas, the most busy by its economics, work places, location of institutions-  foremost the city or municipal hall, and by the consequent built-up area caused by population increases.


The CBD is the magnetic centre of the place that attracts population and plays the hub of human and economic activities. It’s the urban core, the urban shell nuclei, where faster life and more human activities pulsate in a place that is once a rural area, a barrio, a bukid. But non-strictly speaking, there’s also sort of CBD in our remote, far-flung barangays. Often, it’s the purok that has the first big store or many sari-sari stores where barrio folks gather to buy, hang out or drink tuba. A CBD is not always centrally located in spatial term (using space).

It appears that the Davao City’s old and small CBD right after World War II had spatially configured to have small h-shape structure. I am drawing this out considering the City Hall’s location, the businesses that flourished at the vicinities of the old business streets of San Pedro, Claveria and Uyanguren and the role of Sta. Ana wharf in the old city trade. The old CBD was slowly and continuously settled by population within and around it. It grazed outward from the Davao Gulf shorelines. It was a small CBD with centripetal force sliced a bit in its southwest part by the sea.

The 1960-1990s saw Davao City as a compact city with less urban sprawl. During this long period, the CDB-attached population grew with more in-migration of people from the outside. But it can be seen that while the city’s centripetal force kept on building up population and activity concentration at old CBD, and in effect enlarging it, other built up areas also expanded along the linear route imposed by the traversing north-to-south highway where manufacturing, service and business activities slowly located through the years. Particularly, informal settlements (read: slums) grew also along the gulf’s shorelines.

In the postwar period, it was in the decade of the 90s that the city has its start of urban sprawl and suburban growth with the continuing population build up in areas outside the CBD and with the developers having the heyday to establish subdivisions. In the early 90s, the growing CDB then was spiked by the establishment of Victoria Plaza, the first mall acknowledged.  Downtown business grew with the construction of new buildings and hotels within the CBD and in its inner south a warehouse style retail business was set up, the Macro. These spurred the nuclei expansion of the CBD. Towards the decade of 2000s, the city’s suburban sprawl came with the emerging built-up areas in Buhangin, Maa, R. Castillo, Puan, Toril, Mintal, Tugbok and Calinan. These areas are so built-up now two decades after.

The city’s CBD was benefited by the growing regional economy and a population base during the period. By 2000 the city population overshot the 1 million mark. The city’s entire urban shell expansion appears to be multi-nuclei character, indicating its multi-nuclei urban growth that mixed up with linear highway- and industry-led urban pace as shown in the earlier settlement expansion along highway towards Bunawan in the north, Toril in the southwest and Calinan in the south (with the big opening of the Buda route in the early 90s).

Now built-up areas flourished and the presence of new malls in other locations like the SM Ecoland, NCCC Maa, SM Lanang Premier, Gaisano Toril and the still being constructed Gaisano Tibungco is just proving such multi-nuclei urban growth of Davao City, which has diminished the city’s CBD business function. Davao City has been growing and urbanizing in wider spaces with an enlarged CBD with concentric rings of pocket business centers within and around it and with expanding growth corridors in its suburban areas. (follow @chamonforte in Twitter, FB)

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