VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver Chinatown seniors say the city’s efforts to revitalize the aging area and ongoing gentrification are destroying the neighbourhood’s living history and pushing lower-income people out.
The city is in the midst of a three-year review process of its Chinatown Economic Revitalization Action Plan which draws off plans from five years ago.
Among the ideas are managing density while maintaining character, rehabilitating heritage buildings, and improving the neighbourhood’s economy. However, concerns have been raised about building taller, more expensive housing, and allowing 200 foot wide buildings which activists say would destroy the area’s character.
“It’s a huge loss of community. We’re really scared that a lot of seniors will become even more isolated than they already are.” Chinatown Concern Group organizer Beverly Ho says.
The group says the city has not put in the proper effort to include seniors and non-English speaking residents in the public consultations. Two open houses in late October offered residents a chance to voice their opinions, but seniors say they were not well advertised, poorly attended and many of the resources were no in Chinese.
“We want to give the city another chance so they can do this open house process properly so it’s actually open because if you talk to anyone in Chinatown, they’re all really concerned and stressed about the changes because they don’t know where they’ll move if they get renovicted,” Ho says, adding they want the city to host more open houses in the New Year, rather than close the public consultation process down at the end of the month.
Since moving to Vancouver 33 years ago from Alberta, a woman known simply as Mrs. Ma says she’s slowly watched the number of tea shops and traditional markets get replaced with coffee shops, expensive, modern restaurants and luxury condominiums.
“There’s too many coffee shops in Chinatown right now and she hopes more Chinese people will come back to the neighbourhood and that there would be more supermarkets that she can afford that would have the vegetables she needs,” Ma’s translator says.
Chinatown on Pender, from Carrall to Gore, was designated a National Historic District in 2011, but most of the area, which includes three blocks on Main and Gore, two on Keefer and one on East Georgia is open for redevelopment.
Ho says she has already watched as Union Street went to bike and coffee shops and sees East Georgia headed for the same fate.
“I understand that everyone is trying to start a business but a lot of people just aren’t considerate of the living history of the people in this neighbourhood,” she says.
CCG wants the city to buy a parcel of land at 105 Keefer Street, across from the Chinese Cultural Centre, and turn it into seniors’ housing and social gathering spot. A proposal currently suggests the land should become a mixed use building with homes above street level shops.