British Columbia

Chinatown development to be publicly debated

Nathan Edelson, former Vancouver city planner, says it'd be a 'mistake' to let Chinatown get wiped out by big business needs.

Nathan Edelson, former Vancouver city planner, says it'd be a 'mistake' to let Chinatown get wiped out

Chinatown is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the Vancouver and a nationally-recognized historic site. (Photo by: Judy Lam Maxwell)

A former Vancouver city planner says he believes it's important to preserve "every brick and stone in the community" of Chinatown while accommodating growth in the area.

Nathan Edelson said he believes the fate of Chinatown is not just an issue for the Chinese community or those who live in the neighbourhood.

"I think it's an important part of Canada's history and who we are as a people — many of the good things we've done, some of the things we should be doing differently in the future."

A number of recent developments in Chinatown have been controversial, and some in the community claim new developments are pushing out existing residents and business owners.

Edelson is not anti-development, but says it should preserve the neighbourhood's heritage.

"Allowing this to be erased by market forces, I think would be a mistake," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's On The Coast.

For 25 years, Edelson was a planner with the City of Vancouver. For 15 of those years, he focused on the Downtown Eastside including Chinatown.

The former planner will be sharing more of his views as part of a panel taking place on Saturday discussing the future of the neighbourhood. 

He'll be joined by architect Joe Wai, advocate Doris Chow, and Melissa Fong and Kathyn Lennon, both of whom are studying the topic.

In August, the provincial government asked British Columbians which places important to Chinese heritage should be formally recognized as part of ongoing neighbourhood preservation discussions. (Stephanie Mercier/CBC)

The panel discussion stems from a recent proposal by the Beedie Development Group to build a condominium project on the empty lot at 105 Keefer Street, according to organizers Centre A

On their website, Centre A says some community members feel the project could "mark the moment when Chinatown was demoted to the status of a gentrified tourist and real estate marketing commodity."

Edelson said he wants to see even more dialogue between stakeholders and hopes Saturday's discussion will contribute to that.


  • This story has been updated to clarify the fact that Nathan Edelson has concerns about the preservation of Chinatown heritage in general, and was not expressing concern about any one development in particular.
    Jan 18, 2016 3:07 PM PT