Calgary's Chinatown becomes Business Revitalization Zone

Chinatown is banking on a new BRZ to help businesses in the district recover and to make the area a destination for tourists and locals.

Area still recovering from 2013 flood; needs fixing up to become destination for Calgarians and tourists

Terry Wong stands along Second Avenue S.E., one of the areas hardest hit by the 2013 flood. He hopes the new BRZ will bring more visitors and business to the area. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

Chinatown is the latest Calgary neighbourhood to become a business revitalization zone (BRZ), to the delight of business owners in the area who say it's been a struggle since the 2013 flood.

The BRZ is a self-help program that lets commercial operators in a specific area jointly raise and administer funds to improve and promote their businesses, according to the city's website.

"Our business is going up right now, so pretty much it's OK, but it takes time to recover like all of our loss and stuff," said Mickie Chiu, owner of a shop, O'Cup, on Second Avenue S.E. That stretch of Chinatown was one of the hardest hit by the flood. 

Chiu says running her business in Chinatown has also been challenging because parking is expensive during the week, and there are limited spaces available. She'd also like to see changes that would make the area safer for pedestrians.

Those who brought the BRZ application forward to city council say they want to make Chinatown a cultural hub for the local community and for visitors to the city.

Tourists wanted

"Any major city in Canada, whether it's Toronto or Montreal, has a Chinatown and you don't go to those cities without visiting Chinatown: Calgary needs to have that same destination point," said Terry Wong, one of the directors on the interim board for the BRZ.

While the parking and pedestrian access are key issues, Wong says the group will primarily aim to bolster the sense of community.-

"We have at least three if not four generations of culture here and we need to preserve that, not only for our kids but for people who are coming over from Hong Kong and China today."

Chiu said there's no other place she'd rather do business.

"For me, I'll create a business here because I speak the same language, [it's] more positive for me."

The official board will be selected by the end of December and will create a three year business plan and outline infrastructure target projects for Chinatown. 


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