Montreal announces action plan to protect Chinatown district

Measures include the creation of a merchants' association, more green space and affordable housing units in the area.

'This action plan, it gives us a concrete hope,' says president of Chinese Cultural Association

Community members in Chinatown have been calling for action from the municipal and provincial governments to protect the future of the area. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Montreal has announced some concrete measures it will take to protect the Chinatown district, following calls from stakeholders that the area is being threatened by development.

Mayor Valérie Plante said on Friday that the neighbourhood has significant cultural and heritage value and needs to be protected.

She said the actions being announced were devised in consultation with members of the community.

The consultations took two years and involved more than 500 people. 

The actions announced on Friday include:

  • Increasing pedestrian access to the area and improving access to downtown and Old Montreal.
  • Adding green space.
  • Supporting business owners with the creation of a merchants' association.
  • Developing social and affordable housing units.

Robert Beaudry, city councillor for the downtown district of Saint-Jacques, told reporters that while the plan includes the creation of a merchants' association, the city will only act as a 'facilitator' and it will be up to businesses to band together as part of that association.

The city has also launched a working group composed of business owners, citizens and local officials from the Chinatown area who will make recommendations to the provincial Culture Ministry.

For Jimmy Chan, a community leader and president of the Chinese Cultural Association, the announcement could not come soon enough.

Jimmy Chan, the President of the Chinese Cultural Association, says the measures announced by the city make him hopeful about Chinatown's future. (CBC)

"This action plan, it gives us a concrete hope," he told CBC.

When it comes to protecting the area's heritage buildings, he wants to see the neighbourhood declared a designated a cultural heritage site by the province.

"These buildings represent the identity of the Chinese people. Developers have no right to come and take it down and start building high-rises," he said.

Today is the moment for us to do something. When you own a house, that is your home, you have to protect it. Chinatown is Chinese people's home."

With files from Rowan Kennedy