December 27 2012

Where Past Meets Future: Revitalizing Vancouver, British Columbia’s Chinatown Neighborhood

Map of the Chinatown neighborhood east of downtown VancouverChinatown is one of Vancouver, British Columbia’s original four neighborhoods. Located at the neck of the downtown peninsula, the district holds particular historical and cultural importance. In the past several decades Chinatown has seen a mass exodus of retailers and residents as Chinese communities have become more developed in Vancouver’s suburban cities. Recognizing the importance of this neighborhood in Vancouver’s history, city councilors have initiated plans to reinvigorate the once thriving community.

The designation of Chinatown as a National Historic Site in 2001 has eased community concern about the gentrification of the area, which has already occurred in the nearby Gastown neighborhood, raising rent and forcing low-income residents and businesses out of the area. Key to revitalizing Chinatown is the involvement of businesses and patrons who have long resided in the neighborhood.

Findings from initial interviews include:

  • Chinatown must modernize its offerings to compete with other downtown neighborhoods;
  • Life on the streets at night and on the weekends would make the neighborhood more attractive and safe;
  • The cultural centre and museum must be renovated in order to better serve the community, while also serving as a tourist attraction;
  • Historical buildings that define the landscape of the neighborhood must be preserved;
  • Young members of the community should be involved in decision-making roles to pass along traditional knowledge.

Working with these findings in mind, city planners and landscape architects have developed both near and intermediate term goals. These goals include recruiting young volunteers for Chinatown cleanup parties, renovating alley ways that serve as primary entrances to the neighborhood from public transit hubs, and the creation of an economic development corporation that focuses exclusively on the restoration of Chinatown’s heritage buildings.

Historic buildings in Vancouver's Chinatown neighborhoodThe restoration of Chinatown won’t occur overnight. Consultation processes and implementation involve many stakeholders, but actions over the past decade are already yielding results as Vancouver’s Chinatown was voted amongst the cleanest in North America. With a sleek new website and involvement over social media, Chinatown is successfully merging modern design with its historically important elements.

How can neighborhoods be successfully revitalized in your city without the devastating effects of the many gentrification projects we see today?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Courtney McLaughlin

Courtney McLaughlin holds an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. An avid traveler, her interests are public space modification in Canadian cities and sustainable urban planning. As an aspiring landscape architect, Courtney is particularly fascinated by the interplay of landscape architecture, public space, and urban power structures. During her time writing for The Grid, Courtney reported on urban developments in Vancouver, a city frequently named one of the world’s “most liveable” urban locations. Her blog posts explored how this title has been maintained through sustainable and accessible urban design decisions that pride themselves on community engagement.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2012 at 7:35 pm and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, History/Preservation, Infrastructure, Internet Marketing, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design, Website Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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