[URBAN NOTE] Kerry Gold in The Globe and Mail on the decline of Chinatown in Vancouver
In The Globe and Mail, Kelly Gold’s article looks at the problems faced by Vancouver’s Chinatown in the face of rapid development.
Imagine if Chinatown no longer existed. Those shops stacked high with winter melon like mini Zeppelins, heaps of dried mussels and cucumbers, butcher shops with crinkly Chinese sausage dangling from green string and bright pink BBQ pork, ginseng, tea – all of it gone, replaced with chain stores and high-end supermarkets.
There’s already a fancy new supermarket on Main Street where, under the watchful eye of a concierge at the door, you can buy $10 sandwiches at the espresso bar. At Gore and Pender is the giant mural depicting Tao scholar Lao Tzu. Now, a residential building under construction completely obstructs it.
Gentrification isn’t just nibbling at Chinatown’s edges. Thanks to rezoning changes, it’s taking major bites out of the neighbourhood. There are two major mixed-use condo rezonings at Main Street and Keefer that are massive, bulky and featureless, like something you’d see on Robson Street. Instead of Chinatown’s packed sidewalks that force you to dodge elderly people with their wheeled shopping bags – part of the experience – this stretch of bright wide sidewalk speaks of new money.
Class inversion is happening in cities throughout North America. Urban cores used to be the domain of low-income groups, while the wealthier demographic lived in the suburbs. In recent years, wealthier groups are choosing urban living and pushing low-income groups to the outskirts, or further.
“You have to ask, ‘Where is this coming from? Who are you serving?’” asks Kevin Huang, executive director of the Hua Foundation, a non-profit for young Chinese-Canadians. Mr. Huang is also committed to supporting the people who form the tight-knit Chinatown community, and who are now under threat of displacement.