Vancouver Chinatown revitalization: advocates worry over heritage loss, social housing
City says 20 per cent of housing will be for seniors, economy and heritage to be balanced in changes
Hui Qing Chen has called Vancouver's Chinatown home for the past 20 years, but lately, she says, it doesn't feel like home.
"Lots of changes, it used to be very bustling," she said through an interpreter on Saturday adding that it's even difficult to get affordable groceries in the area as many businesses have closed
"There is a lot of coffee shops that have popped up, but as a senior I can't afford those coffees," she said.
Chen's concerns over the future of what started as a ghetto in the late 19th century for incoming Chinese immigrants that quickly grew into one of the largest, most vibrant Chinatowns in North America, were shared by others at a public forum on Saturday.
The City of Vancouver's revitalization plans seek to preserve Chinatown's unique history but also to bring new life to the area with economic development.
"The proposals don't prioritize the low income Chinese community they just want height and width for developers to come in," said Beverly Ho with Chinatown Concerned Group.
Scaled back proposals
If plans are approved by council, the rezoning could allow for buidlings to be built as high as 15 storeys, while also allowing for more retail space.
"That means demolishing all of those buildings and businesses that make Chinatown unique for something like a Walmart that has appeared in L.A's Chinatown," said Melody Ma who is with Save Chinatown Heritage Campaign.
But city planners say that's not the case as they've scaled back proposals to reflect the feedback people like Ma and Ho are providing and there is a proposal to have 20 per cent of housing in Chinatown for seniors like Chen.
Watch Tom Wanklin, senior planner for the Downtown Eastside explain how the city is listening to concerns:
"We are always concerned about how to balance revitalizing the Chinatown economy and also protect the heritage culture of Chinatown," he said.
City councillor Adriane Carr says she understands why many people in the community are tentative about what Chinatown will become.
"It is not just about something in the future, they are seeing adjacent development that creates the anxiety," she said.
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with files from Tina Lovgreen.