British Columbia

New developments in Vancouver's Chinatown leave residents concerned about heritage

New buildings in Vancouver's Chinatown are prompting concern among residents about the changing character of the historic neighbourhood.

The city says the new buildings are part of an extensive revitalization plan

Dominic Lai says the character of Vancouver's Chinatown has changed a lot over the years. (CBC)

New buildings in Vancouver's Chinatown are prompting concern among residents about the changing character of the historic neighbourhood.

After nearly 35 years, Chinese Herbs Enterprises is moving from its East Hastings Street location. Developer Wall Financial is demolishing the building the iconic store has been operating in since it opened, along with the one next to it.

In its place, a new development will be built that includes social and rental housing, along with some retail space. 

"It sucks," said Dominic Lai, speaking on behalf of the store.

"The Chinatown that we have now looks a bit like Chinatown, it feels like Chinatown, you see people walking around, but by no means is it the Chinatown I remember from before." 

The Chinese Herb Company in Vancouver's Chinatown has had to move because the building it's been in for 35 years is being demolished and redeveloped. (CBC)

Lai says he's not against redevelopment, but wishes it happened in a different way. 

"The buildings need work, but at the same time it has to be done in a way that respects there are people living here," he said. "It's not just empty space for someone to come and build whatever they want."

Luckily for Chinese Herbs Enterprises, the store will be able to move into a new location just down the street from its current one. 

Arguing for preservation

But the new developments, along with many other new buildings in the neighbourhood, have left many wondering if the area's culture is being lost in the process. 

"It's going to be a different place and it's targeting different people," said King-mong Chan, an organizer with the Carnegie Action Project

King-mong Chan with the Carnegie Action Project says new developments in Chinatown are attracting a wealthier demographic. (CBC)

"It's [targeting] people who are younger, people with more money, but a lot of the Chinese residents I've talked to are older — where will they go? Their sense of community, their sense of belonging to the neighbourhood is lost."

The group says it wants the city to protect the people and culture that already exists.

Revitalization plan

The city says the redevelopments are all a part of a bigger plan to revitalize Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside

The assistant director of planning said the goal is to create more affordable housing and a vibrant community, while protecting the area's heritage. 

With files from Kiran Dhillon


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