Vancouver's Chinatown in revitalization efforts to lure more visitors

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 19, 2009
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Helping the revitalization of Chinatown has been the establishment of a pedestrian corridor along Pender Street, a thoroughfare that provides a connector with nearby Gastown, the city's oldest area along the waterfront. Pender, the main street in Chinatown, features such attractions as the Millennium Gate, the western entrance to the area, the Sam Kee Building, the narrowest commercial building in the world measuring about six feet wide, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, and an abundance of shops and restaurants.

Easily the most significant structure to re-emerge on the street in recent years is the Wing Sang Building. Owned by Bob Rennie, the city's top real estate marketer, the property, which features two structures and about 27,000 square feet of space, has been refurbished at a cost of more than 10 million Canadian dollars (about 9.3 million U.S. dollars). It now houses the realty king's extensive art collection and offices, and will be the headquarters for the World Olympian Association during the cames.

Yet for all the area's improvements, Chinatown is still faced with the uneasy situation of bordering Vancouver's "Skid Row," Canada's poorest address. The once-vibrant street is a virtual no- go area for most city residents as it is home to cheap rooming houses, beer parlors and a growing army of homeless people, many with mental illness and substance abuse problems.

With Hastings Street, the main corridor of the troubled Downtown Eastside, sandwiched between Gastown and Chinatown, Wendy Au, Vancouver's assistant city manager, said the area was quickly changing for the better and dismissed any concerns about safety.

"There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Chinatown. There's a lot of concern about so-called safety, but actually it is very safe down here," said the Hong Kong immigrant who has lived in Vancouver for 30 years. "Now we also want to get younger people coming down (here). So therefore by having the students to design and to create the (window) displays, they have the fresh ideas. It may be something that traditionally we hadn't thought of in the past."

Au said with a new nightclub, restaurants, wine bars and other businesses opening in the area, she felt the momentum in Chinatown 's revitalization was picking up.

"Different businesses are starting to come in and it's going to be quite diverse businesses. So it's not only about coming down for wonton noodles but you can have a variety of different things, " she said.

"There are a lot of different businesses coming up so we are hoping that this whole Olympics as a catalyst is going to springboard a lot more other interests in Chinatown and that we'll have a bright future."

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