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‘If it is lost, it’s lost forever’: Forum seeks feedback on future of Vancouver’s Chinatown

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‘If it is lost, it’s lost forever’: Forum seeks feedback on future of Vancouver’s Chinatown

The future of Vancouver’s Chinatown is the focus of a community forum this month that invites the public to join the conversation about the challenges facing the historic neighbourhood.

Early Newspaper

Chinatown Reimagined is a three-day online event — Oct. 16, Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 — hosted by the city and UBC to mark the culmination of a three-year process to explore a UNESCO designation.

In September 2018, the city and the province signed a memorandum of understanding signalling their joint commitment to see Chinatown protected and preserved as a world heritage site.

If successful, Vancouver’s Chinatown would be the first in the world to receive such recognition, according to the city’s Chinatown Transformation Team.


Click to play video: 'Renewed effort to save Vancouver’s Chinatown'



Renewed effort to save Vancouver’s Chinatown


Renewed effort to save Vancouver’s Chinatown – Sep 17, 2018

“What’s special about this neighbourhood is at risk,” Michael Tan with the Chinatown Legacy Stewardship Group said.

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Chinatown is home to more than 420 businesses, the first Chinese classical garden built outside of China, and sixty buildings that are more than 100 years old.

The community born out of racism in the 1880s and characterized by the struggles of Chinese Canadians faced an ugly spike in anti-Asian hate during the pandemic, along with graffiti vandalism and street disorder.

Existing social issues including poverty and homelessness were exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. Senior planner Helen Ma said the neighbourhood needs support now more than ever, or it could disappear.

“This would be a devastating loss to the community, the city and beyond,” she told participants at Saturday’s launch of the Reimagined forum.


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Chinatown non-profits deliver care packages to elders stuck at home during pandemic


Chinatown non-profits deliver care packages to elders stuck at home during pandemic – Dec 14, 2020

To make residents and visitors feel safe, the Chinatown Neighbourhood Watch has started a safe-walk program to escort seniors and a safe-refuge initiative with participating storefronts after recent stalking incidents.

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Revitalization efforts include a plan to manage Chinatown’s cultural heritage assets, including supporting seniors and legacy businesses.

“Everyone has a story about how they’re connected to Chinatown,” Tan told Global News. “For me, it’s been family, it’s been that culture.”

Tan spent his early childhood in a second-floor SRO on East Pender Street. He was born little over a year after his family arrived from China in the summer of 1983.

“Some of my earliest memories were playing there and hearing lion dancing and drums from upstairs.”

The community advocate and financial professional honed his martial arts skills in Chinatown, then went on to lead the Lunar New Year parade for more than 22 years and teach kung fu and lion dancing to young people looking to connect with their Asian heritage.

“The collisions that take place in terms of the people — that’s where a lot of that culture lies,” he said.


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Chinatown Reimagined’s launch featured a series of videos highlighting the importance of solidarity, community, resilience, neighbourhood, communication, and celebration in shaping a vibrant community.

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“It won’t necessarily be the same,” Tan told Global News.

“But we want that feeling, what is it in the air when you come into Chinatown — that feel on your bones that makes the neighbourhood special.”

He said he’s kicking up his fight to keep that cultural heritage alive for the next generation.

“If it is lost, it’s lost forever.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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‘If it is lost, it’s lost forever’: Forum seeks feedback on future of Vancouver’s Chinatown