Calgary

Chinatown residents march on city hall to protest planned highrise towers

A contentious plan to replace a parking lot in Chinatown with several high-rise towers spurred about 150 opponents to march to city hall on Friday.

Community advocates say proposed buildings will be too tall for the district

As many as 150 protesters marched to City Hall on Friday to let city councillors know they remain opposed to a planned redevelopment of a parking lot in Chinatown, despite changes to the plan. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

A contentious plan to replace a parking lot in Chinatown with several high-rise towers spurred about 150 opponents to march to city hall on Friday. 

The proposed development includes a building almost twice the height of existing ones in the area to be built on the site of a parking lot that sits between Second Avenue and Third Avenue S.W. just west of Centre Street. 

One of the protesters, Louise Guan, says the city and developers have not done a good enough job of communicating and being transparent about the plans. The area's distinct culture must be preserved, she said. 

"The history of Chinatown is over 100 years," she said. "So at this time, we would like to protect it, not just have something suddenly change."

After months of meetings, the city recently altered the guidlines for the project, calling for the it to be 60 per cent residential and to include Asian or Chinese architectural elements.

City council will debate the project on Monday. 

Coun. Druh Farrell, who put forward a motion in April to delay council's decision on the project until December, says it's important to get this right.

"We want to ensure a strong Chinatown," said Farrell. 

"Part of that is to ensure that we see development in Chinatown. I think... additional residential is absolutely critical for Chinatown. We don't need more office towers."

The future of this Calgary Chinatown parking lot will be discussed at city council Monday. (Google Earth)

But opposition to the project remains — including concerns that the buildings will be too tall for Chinatown.

Terry Wong with the Chinatown Community Stakeholders Committee says the area needs new development but a 30-storey building is not a good fit.

"Two, 30-storey towers on Third Avenue would just dwarf the rest of Chinatown and cause significant change to our cultural distinctiveness," he said. 

Many residents of Chinatown believe the planned towers between Second Avenue and Third Avenue just west of Centre Street will be too tall for the area. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

With files from the CBC's Scott Dippel

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