Vancouver's Chinatown in revitalization efforts to lure more visitors

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 19, 2009
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Vancouver's Chinatown is looking to capitalize on the city's upcoming hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics with a variety of activities designed to lure in visitors.

With its location in the downtown eastside, not far from General Motors Place and BC Place, two of the key stadium venues hosting Olympic events, Chinatown, with a history dating back to the 1880s, is well placed to attract the visitors but is also looking further ahead.

In British Columbia where about 10 percent of the province's 4.1-million population is of Chinese origin, predominantly Cantonese with Mandarin speakers increasingly on the rise, business organizations representing Vancouver's Chinatown are admittedly trying to revitalize what is one of the city's oldest areas.

Their concerns are understandable as for about 20 years the majority of the new Chinese immigrants -- those who came to the Greater Vancouver area in waves starting in the late 1980s -- have been more likely to frequent newer areas that have become popular Chinese enclaves. Victoria Drive in East Vancouver, for one, features numerous grocery and produce stores, while the neighboring city of Richmond, home to the city's airport, has an abundance of high-end shopping malls targeting Chinese migrants with ample free parking for the luxury cars the newcomers so prefer.

Speaking at an event to announce the winner of a "Seasonal Window Display Contest" where local college design students submitted proposals to decorate six shop windows in Chinatown for the Christmas season, Jordan Eng, vice president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association (BIA) Society, said it was vital events like this were held to bring young people and families back to the area.

While admitting times had been tough for the area in recent years, he said the BIA and other groups working to revitalize Chinatown had taken "baby steps" in their efforts to beautify the area which comprises about a nine-block area. Among the changes was a successful campaign to rename the nearby metro stop the "Chinatown-Stadium Station," bringing new lights into the area and in creating the Chinatown Festival which will celebrate its 11th year in 2010, among others.

In time for the February Olympics, Chinatown is planning phase II of its window decorating campaign to welcome the visitors, as well as an expanded Chinese New Year's parade. This year's parade attracted about 60,000 patrons but more are expected to welcome in the Year of the Tiger.

"In the last year we've seen a real turnaround," said Eng who grew up in Chinatown and leases real estate in the area. "We've had new businesses coming back into Chinatown, not only because the rents, which are cheaper than any other part of the city, but also the surrounding area population. We have got about 26,000 residents within one kilometer of Chinatown. We're still a major hub for retail and we are always getting interest."

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