It’s impossible to miss the striking colours of Cilandak Town Square (Citos) when one passes by the development on T.B. Simatupang in South Jakarta. From its Art Deco-style exterior to its open-plan interior, Citos presents a unique and refreshing take on what a shopping mall in Indonesia should be. “The colour palette of Citos is inspired by the vibrant scene of South Beach, Miami,” explains Randolph S.Y Bubu, the 59-year-old President Director of Graha Megaria Raya and founder of Cilandak Town Square. “People have said that the whole look of the building resembles a children’s playground. The building’s exploration of colours is meant to reflect the excitement of festivities and endless celebrations – everything that Citos stands for.”
Bubu identifies Citos, which opened in 2002, as a place for leisure and entertainment rather than as a mere shopping centre. “Back then, most of the malls in Jakarta were focused on retailing, setting aside food as complementary,” he says. “With Citos, I purposely wanted to focus on the culinary side and on entertainment. We regularly hold events at Citos that celebrate music, fashion and the arts. As a result, people come here not just to shop, but to hang out and have a good time. We have more than 80 tenants at Citos, and the majority of the spaces are taken by eateries.”
Think of huge shopping malls, and the American example usually springs to mind. Bubu, however, takes his cues from old-town redevelopment concepts he has seen on his travels in Europe. “In many European cities, you see old buildings that have been converted into hangout places of one sort or another,” he says. “That was the original thinking I had. The traditional town square functions as a place where people from different communities can gather. The main idea of my malls is to bring people together. This is the goal I have had for the Townsquare concept, from the inception of Citos until today.”
Bubu started building Citos in 1999, towards the end of the Asian financial crisis that had broken out in 1997. “Many major property developments stopped when the crisis hit Indonesia,” he recalls of those dark days for the nation. “But we kept on going because I saw an opportunity opening up in front of me. Many people doubted the wisdom of building a mall in Cilandak. The area was rather quiet at the time, but I persisted because I thought it had strong potential. In the property business, you always have to look ahead and try to imagine what’s going to happen in the next 10 years. Today, of course, the area is considered to be the perfect location for such a development. It’s surrounded by office buildings, and it’s close to the suburbs and also the highway.”
Citos was one of the first big property developments to rise in Jakarta after the financial crisis had ended. “My timing was right,” says Bubu. “I think that, after the crisis, people were looking for something new and unique. That’s why, even during the soft-launch phase, the place was already booming.” The mission of this alumnus of the University of San Francisco is to “recognise the creative industries and how to translate elements of them into a range of activities that the general public can enjoy. Software is just as important as the hardware, if not more so. And that’s where creativity comes in.”
There is always something new going on at Citos, and this is by design. On a daily basis, the mall holds bazaars and events with different themes. Regular events at the shopping and entertainment centre include Fashion Tuesday and Ladies Day, on Wednesdays. Both events are dedicated to promoting Indonesian fashion designers and businesses. Each month, the venue organises a Musik Bagus Day, which includes musical performances and workshops, and sales of CDs and vinyls. Since its inception, Citos has hosted some of the city’s biggest public events. Inspired by the annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square in New York City, Citos was the first commercial centre in Jakarta to hold such a countdown celebration, according to Bubu.
“No other malls here had done it at the time,” says the property developer. “We also host NoBar (Nonton Bareng) events. A great example would be whenever there’s a big football match on TV, and people crowd into the venue to watch it together. As the matches usually start very late at night, we have no choice but to stay open until the early hours of the morning. No other malls here do this. They are not designed for it. This is something that sets us apart from the others.”
On June 3 this year, Citos and Badan Ekonomi Kreatif (Bekraf) held “We the Nation” to mark the 72nd anniversary of Pancasila. Glen Fredly and Addie MS were among the stars who entertained the huge crowd attending the event, which included members of the Soekarno family. “The aim of this event was to instill the principles of Pancasila, especially among the younger generation,” says Bubu.
The open design of the building enables a limitless variety of activities and events to take place at Citos, and this is what Bubu had in mind from the beginning. “The floor plan was adjusted so that many things could happen here,” Bubu points out. “We have more than 1,500 individuals from different artistic communities working with us. Our goal is to facilitate their business activities by offering them a platform and the resources they need.”
Before becoming a property developer, the father-of-two spent 20 years as a banker. He worked for HSBC in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Britain. “I was a foreign-exchange dealer and a credit officer,” he says. “I learned a great deal about business and entrepreneurship from interacting with entrepreneurs. I found it so exciting that I felt I myself had to get into the real-estate business.”
Today, Bubu is a major player in the Indonesian property development business, having expanded the Townsquare franchise in 2008 to Surabaya with Surabaya Town Square (Sutos) and TS Suites, a hip five-star hotel. In 2014, he opened a TS Suites hotel in Seminyak, Bali, along with the launch of TStore, which showcases the collections of some 100 fashion designers in Indonesia. He has also opened Jenja Bar & Club in Jakarta and Bali.
“My business is not just about property, it’s about understanding lifestyle,” Bubu declares. “That’s why it’s important for me to join hands with Indonesian brands and social communities, because they represent what lifestyle is all about.” Asked about his plans for growing Townsquare, he points to a couple of options. “We target cities instead of remote areas,” he says. “Outside of Jakarta, Makassar is a good prospect. I’ve been observing their changes in lifestyle, particularly in terms of people’s consumerism and how they eat. This is a good way of knowing if they are ready for my concept. In addition, we are exploring a few other possible projects in the city.
“Expanding the business is not merely about choosing good locations. It’s about the readiness of people to adopt a new lifestyle. It may take time to educate people about lifestyle, but I am more than willing to help. At the end of the day, we want to expand the Townsquare concept all over Indonesia.”