May 2009 Archives

Vancouver Chinatown
Vancouver's Chinatown: Panic & dismay follow any discussion on density

If you haven't got tired of all the Chicken Littles Vancouver produces around density, then you've got lots to look forward to, folks. Chinatown is supposedly going to be paved over and glass towers will replace all the heritage, and it's an affront to the legacy of the 1960s anti-freeway movement, blah blah blah blah blah.

Both the Vancouver Sun's John Mackie and Frances have covered this story for the local press, and they are both telling essentially the same tale of some key players (developers & Chinatown leaders) opposing any change, while the leadership in the City's planning department are floating balloons that will hopefully make Chinatown more economically viable, and (horrors!) attractive to business, tourists, as well as Metro Vancouver's Chinese community who all but abandoned the neighbourhood years ago.

Chinatown is in decay, and it deserves an opportunity to prosper again. It may still be on all our tourist maps, but there's little to attract people to this part of the city anymore to shop, to dine or to explore. Chinatown needs a serious injection of private capital to make it vibrant again. The romantics who propose that it must never change, or only change a tiny little bit so that people will hardly even notice, are assuring the slow death of Vancouver's heritage neighbourhoods like this.

Huge towers may be incongruous, but mid-size highrises may work. We'll never know unless we allow a true public debate and planning process to begin. The Chicken Littles don't want you to have that opportunity.

Comments on the newspaper websites very often turn into a series of depressing personal attacks, but Mackie's story has some very thoughtful remarks on the Chinatown density debate I thought I'd share with our readers.

Check out!

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