2015 – Vancouver – Chinatown Under Siege – 1 of 2
Vancouver’s Chinatown is not huge but the largest in Canada. Approximately 15 city blocks concentrated between Union Street on the south to Hastings Street on the north and between Colombia Street on the west and Gore Avenue on the east. Pender Street is its main thoroughfare and it extends Chinatown further west to Taylor Street and the Entrance to Chinatown Gate.
I have lived a few blocks south of Chinatown for 20 years. For the first 15 there was little change. Some deterioration and a little attempt at sprucing it up with refurbished street lighting and street re-paving.
About 5 years ago things began to change and in comparison to the first fifteen, rapidly.
There are now 10 new condos either completed or in progress. None in my opinion say Chinatown, more like Yaletown in design. Too much pastel glass and these stupid little glass sidewalk canopies that offer nothing for protection or aesthetics. Plus the buildings are homogenizing the street into one uniform (ugly) streetscape.
In the past week I spotted two new for sale signs on buildings that could be heritage but are in need of major help.
There are many new businesses opened recently and that is good but once again they could be anywhere in the city. Upscale coffee shops, new restaurants (none Chinese), computer software companies, bar tender training, bicycle repair shops, art galleries, chic clothing stores, ceramics and a Pie shop to name a few.
There are also business closing. Produce and meat stores, Chinese clothing and home furnishing shops, a historic printing shop (Ho Hung Hing).
On the north side of Pender east of Main there are 5 empty shops in a row that to me has “condo coming” written all over it.
I fear the current Chinese business ownerswill be too tempted to sell out for the land value so more condos can be built.
I hope the ambience of the neighbourhood can be retained but I do not see much evidence of that happening today. Some better attempt at design to fit the neighbourhood would be a big bonus IMO.
This photo shows the latest condo start on Pender east of Main.
In 2011 the Canadian Federal Government designated Vancouver’s Chinatown as a National Historical Site. So, what does this national designation mean for the future of Chinatown? The impact of a historical designation on the buildings and businesses is yet to be realized but hopefully it will provide some protection.
Rally set to air Chinatown concerns
Reporter Stefania Seccia
By Stefania Seccia, 24 hours
Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:12:04 PST PM
Local concerns about Chinatown’s at-risk heritage and dwindling affordable housing stock is leading to an upcoming rally at city hall.
King-mong Chan, with the Carnegie Community Action Project, has been working on a petition calling for a temporary moratorium on new market development projects that has so far received 1,100 signatures.
Chan said that on March 3 there will be a community rally at city hall to deliver the petition to Mayor Gregor Robertson.
“We want to bring that primary call for a moratorium to the mayor,” he said.
About 800 condo units and market rental units are slated for construction in Chinatown, while more than a dozen will be available as affordable housing with an $850 monthly cost of rent. The height restrictions for buildings were raised in 2011, but could be again raised if a 13-storey Beedie Group development gets approved.
“The whole community and identity of Chinatown is really under threat because of the way developers are promoting Chinatown marketing as the new Yaletown,” he said. “And the character is shifting towards that.
“Right now, people are saying it doesn’t look like Chinatown already.”
Chan said that from the residents he’s spoken to and keeps in constant contact with feel like not only has Chinatown’s character has been lost, but there’s also concerns about unstable affordable housing and retail.
“If they raise their rent, where are those people going to go?” he said.
But Kevin McNaney, Vancouver’s assistant director of planning, said the city is already doing a lot to preserve Chinatown’s character.
“We share the same values that there is a need for more affordable housing in Chinatown and heritage protection, and we’re working closely on both,” he said.
“We’ve been trying to use some of these new developments to generate affordable housing, and one of them is giving us 22 units of social housing.”
As for architecture and form, on March 4 a workshop between two council-appointed advisory committees – the Chinatown historic area planning committee and the urban design panel – will help them better understand the concerns, said McNaney. It will also be open to the public.
“It’s to help them understand the community’s perspective better,” he said. “That way when future projects come through, they can provide advice that reflects the community’s concerns and reflects their aspirations.
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