A plan to help guide development while aiming to preserve culture and history in Calgary’s Chinatown has been approved by city council.
“Tomorrow’s Chinatown” is a 30-year strategy that includes a cultural plan, an area redevelopment plan and the renaming of James Short Park to Harmony Park.
The overall strategy was approved by city councilors in a unanimous vote on Tuesday.
“It recognizes the history, heritage and culture of what Chinatown is,” Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said. “Both in terms of how it looks and how it will be built, but also how it will be enjoyed by people who live there, work there and do business there.”
The cultural plan and area redevelopment plan are expected to serve as a culturally informed guide for future developments, improved streetscapes and park space.
According to Wong, future development and architecture will respect Chinatown as a “cultural enclave” and include an articulation of Asian motif, while intersections and curbs will be reflective of how the Chinatown community uses those spaces.
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It comes after years of consultation and engagement with residents in Chinatown and the city’s Chinese community, which included a citizen advisory group made up of 25 community leaders and citizens.
The community is a special place for Alice Lam, founder of I Love YYC Chinatown.
Lam’s parents were refugees from Vietnam, and Chinatown was one of the first communities they lived in when they arrived in Calgary.
“It was really a place of community, of helping each other and mutual aid,” Lam told Global News. “I think now that I’m older, I just want to pay it forward.”
Lam has spent years volunteering in Chinatown, from helping seniors with translation and connecting them with social services, to educating Calgarians about the history in the community.
Lam said Chinatowns are disappearing across North America due to gentrification and said she is hopeful in the collaborative effort to preserve the heritage in the community.
“This is just one way we can ensure that everyone who comes to the neighborhood and wants to invest does so in a cooperative manner and does something that respects the cultural and historical context of the neighborhood,” said Lam.
Chinatown has been part of Calgary since 1885, but where it stands now is its third location.
The first Chinatown was created by Canadian Pacific Railway workers along 8 Avenue between 2 Street SE and 4 Street SE, but was forced to move to 10 Avenue between 1 Street SW and 4 Street SW
This area was redeveloped around 1910 and the community had to move a third time.
Wong said the story of Calgary’s Chinese community is one of perseverance and strength during challenging times, including policies of the day like the Chinese Immigration Act.
“That immigration law at the time restricted citizenship, restricted mobility, restricted education and restricted the ability for people to bring their families from China,” Wong said. “That immigration law also brought in a head tax.”
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According to Wong, investment in the cultural plan will also be proposed to celebrate the anniversary of the lifting of the law next year.
Calgary’s mayor was absent from council for the vote, but released a statement in support of the plan.
“Over the years, Chinatown has contributed so much to making downtown Calgary a thriving destination, and these plans reflect what we can achieve together to create tomorrow’s Chinatown,” Gondek’s statement said.
The area redevelopment plan still needs final approval from the Calgary Metropolitan Regional Council before it returns to city council in the spring to be finalized.
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